BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
BY KATE CHOPIN.
All rights reserved.
The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.
Electrotyped and Printed by H. 0. Houghton & Co.
S E -
A No- ACCOUNT CREOLE
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES ... 51
IN SABINE 78
A VERY FINE FIDDLE 96
BEYOND THE BAYOU 99
OLD AUNT PEGGY Ill
THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE 113
A RUDE AWAKENING 126
THE BENITOUS SLAVE 143
DESIRE"E S BABY 147
A TURKEY HUNT 159
MADAME CELESTIN S DIVORCE .... 163
LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU . . . . . 170
BOULOT AND BOULOTTE 207
FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE . . . . 210
A VISIT TO AVOYELLES 223
A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG .... 230
MA AME PELAGIE 245
AT THE CADIAN BALL 261
LA BELLE ZORAIDE 280
A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TECHE . . . 291
A LADY OF BAYOU ST. JOHN .... 304
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
ONE agreeable afternoon in late autumn
two young men stood together on Canal
Street, closing a conversation that had evi
dently begun within the club-house which
they had just quitted.
" There s big money in it, Off dean," said
the elder of the two. " I would n t have you
touch it if there was n t. Why, they tell me
Patchly s pulled a hundred thousand out of
the concern a ready."
" That may be," replied Off dean, who had
been politely attentive to the words ad
dressed to him, but whose face bore a look
indicating that he was closed to conviction.
He leaned back upon the clumsy stick which
he carried, and continued : " It s all true, I
dare say, Fitch ; but a decision of that sort
would mean more to me than you d believe
if I were to tell you. The beggarly twenty-
five thousand s all I have, and I want to
sleep with it under my pillow a couple of
months at least before I drop it into a slot."
" You 11 drop it into Harding & Offdean s
mill to grind out the pitiful two and a half
per cent commission racket ; that s what
you 11 do in the end, old fellow see if you
"Perhaps I shall; but it s more than
likely I shan t. We 11 talk about it when
I get back. You know I m off to north
Louisiana in the morning "
"No! What the deuce "-
" Oh, business of the firm."
" Write me from Shreveport, then ; or
wherever it is."
" Not so far as that. But don t expect to
hear from me till you see me. I can t say
when that will be."
Then they shook hands and parted. The
rather portly Fitch boarded a Prytania Street
car, and Mr. Wallace Offdean hurried to the
bank in order to replenish his portemonnaie,
which had been materially lightened at the
club through the medium of unpropitious
jack-pots and bobtail flushes.
He was a sure-footed fellow, this young
A NO- AC COUNT CREOLE. 3
Offdean, despite an occasional fall in slip
pery places. What he wanted, now that he
had reached his twenty-sixth year and his
inheritance, was to get his feet well planted
on solid ground, and to keep his head cool
With his early youth he had had certain
shadowy intentions of shaping his life on in
tellectual lines. That is, he wanted to ; and
he meant to use his faculties intelligently,
which means more than is at once apparent.
Above all, he would keep clear of the mael
stroms of sordid work and senseless pleasure
in which the average American business man
may be said alternately to exist, and which
reduce him, naturally, to a rather ragged
condition of soul.
Offdean had done, in a temperate way,
the usual things which young men do who
happen to belong to good society, and are
possessed of moderate means and healthy
instincts. He had gone to college, had
traveled a little at home and abroad, had
frequented society and the clubs, and had
worked in his uncle s commission-house ; in
all of which employments he had expended
much time and a modicum of energy.
But he felt all through that he was simply
4 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
in a preliminary stage of being, one that
would develop later into something tangible
and intelligent, as he liked to tell himself.
With his patrimony of twenty-five thousand
dollars came what he felt to be the turning-
point in his life, the time when it be
hooved him to choose a course, and to get
himself into proper trim to follow it man
fully and consistently.
When Messrs. Harding & Offdean deter
mined to have some one look after what they
called " a troublesome piece of land on Red
River," Wallace Offdean requested to be
intrusted with that special commission of
A shadowy, ill-defined piece of land in an
unfamiliar part of his native State, might,
he hoped, prove a sort of closet into which
he could retire and take counsel with his
inner and better self.
What Harding & Offdean had called a
piece of land on Red River was better
known to the people of Natchitoches l parish
as " the old Santien place."
In the days of Lucien Santien and his
1 Pronounced Nack-e-tosh.
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 5
hundred slaves, it had been very splendid in
the wealth of its thousand acres. But the
war did its work, of course. Then Jules San-
tien was not the man to mend such damage
as the war had left. His three sons were
even less able than he had been to bear the
weighty inheritance of debt that came to
them with the dismantled plantation ; so it
was a deliverance to all when Harding &
Offdean, the New Orleans creditors, relieved
them of the place with the responsibility
and indebtedness which its ownership had
Hector, the eldest, and Gregoire, the
youngest of these Santien boys, had gone
each his way. Placide alone tried to keep a
desultory foothold upon the land which had
been his and his forefathers . But he too
was given to wandering within a radius,
however, which rarely took him so far that
he could not reach the old place in an after
noon of travel, when he felt so inclined.
There were acres of open land cultivated
in a slovenly fashion, but so rich that cotton
and corn and weed and " cocoa-grass " grew
rampant if they had only the semblance of a
chance. The negro quarters were at the far
end of this open stretch, and consisted of a
6 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
long row of old and very crippled cabins.
Directly back of these a dense wood grew,
and held much mystery, and witchery of
sound and shadow, and strange lights when
the sun shone. Of a gin-house there was
left scarcely a trace ; only so much as could
serve as inadequate shelter to the miserable
dozen cattle that huddled within it in winter
A dozen rods or more from the Red
River bank stood the dwelling-house, and no
where upon the plantation had time touched
so sadly as here. The steep, black, moss-
covered roof sat like an extinguisher above
the eight large rooms that it covered, and
had come to do its office so poorly that
not more than half of these were habitable
when the rain fell. Perhaps the live-oaks
made too thick and close a shelter about it.
The verandas were long and broad and in
viting ; but it was well to know that the
brick pillar was crumbling away under one
corner, that the railing was insecure at an
other, and that still another had long ago
been condemned as unsafe. But that, of
course, was not the corner in which Wallace
Offdean sat the day following his arrival
at the Saiitien place. This one was com-
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 7
paratively secure. A gloire-de-Dijon, thick-
leaved and charged with huge creamy blos
soms, grew and spread here like a hardy
vine upon the wires that stretched from post
to post. The scent of the blossoms was de
licious ; and the stillness that surrounded
OfHeaii agreeably fitted his humor that
asked for rest. His old host, Pierre Man-
ton, the manager of the place, sat talking to
him in a soft, rhythmic monotone ; but his
speech was hardly more of an interruption
than the hum of the bees among the roses.
He was saying :
"If it would been me myse f, I would
nevair grumb . Wen a chimbly breck, I
take one, two de boys ; we patch im up bes
we know how. We keep on men de fence ,
firs one place, anudder ; an if it would n
be f er dem mule of Lacroix tonnerre !
I don wan to talk bout dem mule . But
me, I would n grumb . It s Euphrasie,
hair. She say dat s all fool nonsense fer
rich man lack Hardin -Oflde n to let a piece
o Ian goin lack dat."
" Euphrasie ? " questioned Offdean, in
some surprise ; for he had not yet heard of
any such person.
" Euphrasie, my li le chile. Escuse me
8 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
one minute," Pierre added, remembering
that he was in his shirt-sleeves, and rising
to reach for his coat, which hung upon a peg
near by. He was a small, square man, with
mild, kindly face, brown and roughened
from healthy exposure. His hair hung gray
and long beneath the soft felt hat that he
wore. When he had seated himself, Off-
dean asked :
" Where is your little child? I have n t
seen her," inwardly marveling that a little
child should have uttered such words of
wisdom as those recorded of her.
" She yonder to Mme. Duplan on Cane
River. I been kine espectin hair sence yis-
tiday hair an Placide," casting an uncon
scious glance down the long plantation road.
" But Mme. Duplan she nevair want to let
Euphrasie go. You know it s hair raise
Euphrasie sence hair po ma die , Mr. Off>
de n. She teck dat li le chile, an raise it,
sem lack she raisin Ninette. But it s mo
an a year now Euphrasie say dat s all fool
nonsense to leave me livin lone lack dat,
wid nuttin cep dem nigger an Placide
once a w ile. An she came yair bossin !
My goodness ! " The old man chuckled,
" Dat s hair been writin all dem letter to
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 9
Hardin -Offde n. If it would been me my-
Placide seemed to have had a foreboding
of ill from the start when he found that Eu-
phrasie began to interest herself in the con
dition of the plantation. This ill feeling
voiced itself partly when he told her it was
none of her lookout if the place went to the
dogs. " It s good enough for Joe Duplan
to run things en grand seigneur, Euphrasie ;
that s w at s spoiled you."
Placide might have done much single-
handed to keep the old place in better trim, if
he had wished. For there was no one more
clever than he to do a hand s turn at any
and every thing. He could mend a saddle or
bridle while he stood whistling a tune. If a
wagon required a brace or a bolt, it was no
thing for him to step into a shop and turn
out one as deftly as the most skilled black
smith. Any one seeing him at work with
plane and rule and chisel would have de
clared him a born carpenter. And as for
mixing paints, and giving a fine and lasting
coat to the side of a house or barn, he had
not his equal in the country.
10 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
This last talent he exercised little in his
native parish. It was in a neighboring one,
where he spent the greater part of his time,
that his fame as a painter was established.
There, in the village of Orville, he owned a
little shell of a house, and during odd times
it was Placide s great delight to tinker at
this small home, inventing daily new beauties
and conveniences to add to it. Lately it had
become a precious possession to him, for in
the spring he was to bring Euphrasie there
as his wife.
Maybe it was because of his talent, and his
indifference in turning it to good, that he was
often called " a no-account Creole " by thrift
ier souls than himself. But no-account cre-
ole or not, painter, carpenter, blacksmith,
and whatever else he might be at times, he
was a Santien always, with the best blood in
the country running in his veins. And many
thought his choice had fallen in very low
places when he engaged himself to marry
little Euphrasie, the daughter of old Pierre
Manton and a problematic mother a good
deal less than nobody.
Placide might have married almost any
one, too ; for it was the easiest thing in the
world for a girl to fall in love with him,
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. n
sometimes the hardest thing in the world not
to, he was such a splendid fellow, such a
careless, happy, handsome fellow. And he
did not seem to mind in the least that young
men who had grown up with him were law
yers now, and planters, and members of
Shakespeare clubs in town. No one ever ex
pected anything quite so humdrum as that
of the Santien boys. As youngsters, all three
had been the despair of the country school
master ; then of the private tutor who had
come to shackle them, and had failed in his.
design. And the state of mutiny and revolt
that they had brought about at the college of
Grand Coteau when their father, in a mo
ment of weak concession to prejudice, had
sent them there, is a thing yet remembered
And now Placide was going to marry Eu-
phrasie. He could not recall the time when
he had not loved her. Somehow he felt that
it began the day when he was six years old,
and Pierre, his father s overseer, had called
him from play to come and make her ac
quaintance. He was permitted to hold her
in his arms a moment, and it was with silent
awe that he did so. She was the first white-
faced baby he remembered having seen, and
12 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
he straightway believed she had been sent
to him as a birthday gift to be his little play
mate and friend. If he loved her, there was
no great wonder ; every one did, from the
time she took her first dainty step, which
was a brave one, too.
She was the gentlest little lady ever born
in old Natchitoches parish, and the happiest
and merriest. She never cried or whimpered
for a hurt. Placide never did, why should
she ? When she wept, it was when she did
what was wrong, or when he did ; for that
was to be a coward, she felt. When she
was ten, and her mother was dead, Mme.
Duplan, the Lady Bountiful of the parish,
had driven across from her plantation, Les
Cheniers, to old Pierre s very door, and
there had gathered up this precious little
maid, and carried her away, to do with as
And she did with the child much as she
herself had been done by. Euphrasie went
to the convent soon, and was taught all gentle
things, the pretty arts of manner and speech
that the ladies of the " Sacred Heart " can
teach so well. When she quitted them, she
left a trail of love behind her ; she always
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 13
Placide continued to see her at intervals,
and to love her always. One day he told
her so ; he could not help it. She stood
under one of the big oaks at Les Cheniers.
It was midsummer time, and the tangled
sunbeams had enmeshed her in a golden fret
work. When he saw her standing there in
the sun s glamour, which was like a glory
upon her, he trembled. He seemed to see
her for the first time. He could only look
at her, and wonder why her hair gleamed so,
as it fell in those thick chestnut waves about
her ears and neck. He had looked a thou
sand times into her eyes before ; was it only
to-day they held that sleepy, wistful light in
them that invites love ? How had he not
seen it before? Why had he not known
before that her lips were red, and cut in
fine, strong curves ? that her flesh was like
cream ? How had he not seen that she was
beautiful? "Euphrasie," he said, taking
her hands, " Euphrasie, I love you ! "
She looked at him with a little astonish
ment. " Yes ; I know, Placide." She spoke
with the soft intonation of the Creole.
" No, you don t, Euphrasie. I did n know
myse f how much tell jus now."
Perhaps he did only what was natural
14 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
when he asked her next if she loved him.
He still held her hands. She looked thought
fully away, unready to answer.
" Do you love anybody better ? " he asked
jealously. " Any one jus as well as me ? "
"You know I love papa better, Placide,
an Mainan Duplan jus as well."
Yet she saw no reason why she should not
be his wife when he asked her to.
Only a few months before this, Euphrasie
had returned to live with her father. The
step had cut her off from everything that
girls of eighteen call pleasure. If it cost
her one regret, no one could have guessed it.
She went often to visit the Duplans, how
ever ; and Placide had gone to bring her
home from Les Cheniers the very day of
Offdeaii s arrival at the plantation.
They had traveled by rail to Natchitoches,
where they found Pierre s no-top buggy
awaiting them, for there was a drive of five
miles to be made through the pine woods
before the plantation was reached. When
they were at their journey s end, and had
driven some distance up the long plantation
road that led to the house in the rear, Eu
phrasie exclaimed :
" Wy, there s some one on the gall ry
with papa, Placide ! "
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 15
" Yes ; I see."
" It looks like some one Pom town. It
mus be Mr. Gus Adams ; but I don see his
" T ain t no one f om town that I know.
It s boun to be some one f om the city."
" Oh, Placide, I should n wonder if Hard
ing & Offdean have sent some one to look
after the place at las ," she exclaimed a little
They were near enough to see that the
stranger was a young man of very pleasing
appearance. Without apparent reason, a
chilly depression took hold of Placide.
"I tole you it was n yo lookout f om
the firs , Euphrasie," he said to her.
Wallace Offdean remembered Euphrasie
at once as a young person whom he had
assisted to a very high perch on his club
house balcony the previous Mardi Gras
night. He had thought her pretty and at
tractive then, and for the space of a day or
two wondered who she might be. But he
had not made even so fleeting an impression
upon her ; seeing which, he did not refer to
any former meeting when Pierre introduced
16 A NO- AC COUNT CREOLE.
She took the chair which he offered her,
and asked him very simply when he had
come, if his journey had been pleasant, and
if he had not found the road from Natchi-
toches in very good condition.
" Mr. Offde n only come sence yistiday,
Euphrasie," interposed Pierre. " We been
talk plenty bout de place, him an me. I
been tole im all bout it va ! An if Mr.
Offde n want to escuse me now, I b lieve I go
he p Placide wid dat hoss an buggy ; " and
he descended the steps slowly, and walked
lazily with his bent figure in the direction of
the shed beneath which Placide had driven,
after depositing Euphrasie at the door.
" I dare say you find it strange," began
Offdean, " that the owners of this place have
neglected it so long and shamefully. But
you see," he added, smiling, " the manage
ment of a plantation does n t enter into the
routine of a commission merchant s business.
The place has already cost them more than
they hope to get from it, and naturally they
have n t the wish to sink further money in
it." He did not know why he was saying
these things to a mere girl, but he went on :
" I m authorized to sell the plantation if I
can get anything like a reasonable price for
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 17
it." Euphrasie laughed in a way that made
him uncomfortable, and he thought he would
say no more at present, not till he knew
her better, anyhow.
44 Well," she said in a very decided
fashion, " I know you 11 fin one or two per
sons in town who 11 begin by running down
the Ian till you would n want it as a gif,
Mr. Offdean ; and who will en by offering
to take it off yo han s for the promise of a
song, with the Ian as security again."
They both laughed, and Placide, who was
approaching, scowled. But before he reached
the steps his instinctive sense of the courtesy
due to a stranger had banished the look of
ill humor. His bearing was so frank and
graceful, and his face such a marvel of
beauty, with its dark, rich coloring and soft
lines, that the well-clipped and groomed Off-
dean felt his astonishment to be more than
half admiration when they shook hands. He
knew that the Santiens had been the former
owners of this plantation which he had come
to look after, and naturally he expected some
sort of cooperation or direct assistance from
Placide in his efforts at reconstruction. But
Placide proved non-committal, and exhibited
an indifference and ignorance concerning the
18 A NO-ACCOUNT CJtEOLE.
condition of affairs that savored surprisingly
He had positively nothing to say so long
as the talk touched upon matters concern
ing Off dean s business there. He was only
a little less taciturn when more general
topics were approached, and directly after
supper he saddled his horse and went away.
He would not wait until morning, for the
moon would be rising about midnight, and
he knew the road as well by night as by
day. He knew just where the best fords
were across the bayous, and the safest paths
across the hills. He knew for a certainty
whose plantations he might traverse, and
whose fences he might derail. But, for that
matter, he would derail what he liked, and
cross where he pleased.
Euphrasie walked with him to the shed
when he went for his horse. She was be
wildered at his sudden determination, and
wanted it explained.
" I don like that man," he admitted
frankly ; " I can t stan him. Sen me word
w en he s gone, Euphrasie."
She was patting and rubbing the pony,
which knew her well. Only their dim out
lines were discernible in the thick darkness.
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
"You are foolish,
in French. "You wowld ob better
and help him. No c/e lgg^s^4ieWlace so
well as you "
"The place isn t
to me," he answered
hands and kissed t
laimed rapturously, " you
do ilove^ mC^uphrasie ?" His arms were
and his lips brushing her hair
they eagerly but ineffectually
ly. He took her
[er lips upon his fore-
co se I love you, Placide. Ain t I
going to marry you nex spring ? You fool
ish boy ! " she replied, disengaging herself
from his clasp.
When he was mounted, he stooped to say,
" See yere, Euphrasie, don t have too much
to do with that d - Yankee."
" But, Placide, he is n t a a d -
Yankee ; he s a Southerner, like you, a
New Orleans man."
" Oh, well, he looks like a Yankee." But
Placide laughed, for he was happy since Eu
phrasie had kissed him, and he whistled
softly as he urged his horse to a canter and
disappeared in the darkness.
20 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
e girl stood awhile with clasped hands,
trying to understand a little sigh that rose
in her tnro^t, amj, that was not one of regret.
When she regained the house, she went di
rectly to her room, an left her father talking
to Offdean in the quiet and perfumed night.
When two weeks h^l jpass^d, Offdean
felt very much at home with old Pierre and
his daughter, and found the business that
had called him to the country so engrossing
that he had given no thought to those per
sonal questions he had hoped to solve in
The old man had driven him around in the
no-top buggy to show him how dismantled
the fences and barns were. He could see
for himself that the house was a constant
menace to human life. In the evenings the
three would sit out on the gallery and talk
of the land and its strong points and its
weak ones, till he came to know it as if it
had been his own.
Of the rickety condition of the cabins he
got a fair notion, for he and Euphrasie
passed them almost daily on horseback, on
their way to the woods. It was seldom that
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 21
their appearance together did not rouse com
ment among the darkies who happened to
be loitering about.
La Chatte, a broad black woman with
ends of white wool sticking out from under
her tignon, stood with arms akimbo watch
ing them as they disappeared one day. Then
she turned and said to a young woman who
sat in the cabin door :
" Dat young man, ef he want to listen to
me, he gwine quit dat ar caperin roun Miss
The young woman in the doorway laughed,
and showed her white teeth, and tossed her
head, and fingered the blue beads at her
throat, in a way to indicate that she was in
hearty sympathy with any question that
touched upon gallantry.
" Law ! La Chatte, you ain gwine hinder
a gemman f om payin intentions to a young
lady w en he a mine to."
"Dat all I got to say," returned La
Chatte, seating herself lazily and heavily on
the doorstep. " Nobody don know dem
Sanchun boys bettah an I does. Did n I
done part raise em? Wat you reckon my
ha r all tu n plumb w ite dat-a-way ef it
warn t dat Placide w at done it ? "
22 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
" How come he make yo ha r tu n w ite,
" Dev ment, pu dev ment, Eose. Did n
he come in dat same cabin one day, w eii he
warn t no bigga an dat Pres dent Hayes
w at you sees gwine long de road wid dat
cotton sack crost im ? He come an sets
down by de do , on dat same t ree-laigged
stool w at you s a-settin on now, wid his
gun in his han , an he say : La Chatte, I
wants some croquignoles, an I wants em
quick, too. I low : G way f om dah, boy.
Don you see I s flutin yo ma s petticoat ?
He say : La Chatte, put side dat ar flutin -
i on an dat ar petticoat ; an he cock dat
gun an p int it to my head. Dar de ba el,
he say ; git out dat flour, git out dat butta
an dat aigs; step roun dah, ole oman.
Dis heah gun don quit yo head tell dem
croquignoles is on de table, wid a w ite table-
clof an a cup o coffee. Ef I goes to de
ba el, de gun s a-p intin . Ef I goes to de
fiah, de gun s a-p intin . Wen I rolls out
de dough, de gun s a-p iiitin ; an him neva
say nuttin , an me a-trim lin like ole Uncle
Noah w eii de mis ry strike im."
" Lordy ! w at you reckon he do ef he
tu n roun an git mad wid dat young gem-
man f om de city ? "
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 23
" I don reckon nuttin ; I knows w at he
gwine do, same w at his pa done."
" W at his pa done, La Chatte ? "
" G long bout yo business ; you s axin
too many questions." And La Chatte arose
slowly and went to gather her party-colored
wash that hung drying on the jagged and
irregular points of a dilapidated picket-
But the darkies were mistaken in suppos
ing that Offdean was paying attention to
Euphrasie. Those little jaunts in the wood
were purely of a business character. Off-
dean had made a contract with a neighbor
ing mill for fencing, in exchange for a certain
amount of uncut timber. He had made it
his work with the assistance of Euphrasie
to decide upon what trees he wanted
felled, and to mark such for the woodman s
If they sometimes forgot what they had
gone into the woods for, it was because there
was so much to talk about and to laugh
about. Often, when Off dean had blazed a
tree with the sharp hatchet which he carried
at his pommel, and had further discharged
his duty by calling it "a fine piece of tim
ber," they would sit upon some fallen and
24 A NO-ACCOUNT CUE OLE.
decaying trunk, maybe to listen to a chorus
of mocking-birds above their heads, or to ex
change confidences, as young people will.
Euphrasie thought she had never heard
any one talk quite so pleasantly as Offdean
did. She could not decide whether it was
his manner or the tone of his voice, or the
earnest glance of his dark and deep-set blue
eyes, that gave such meaning to everything
he said ; for she found herself afterward
thinking of his every word.
One afternoon it rained in torrents, and
Rose was forced to drag buckets and tubs
into Offdean s room to catch the streams
that threatened to flood it. Euphrasie said
she was glad of it ; now he could see for
And when he had seen for himself, he
went to join her out on a corner of the gal
lery, where she stood with a cloak around
her, close up against the house. He leaned
against the house, too, and they stood thus
together, gazing upon as desolate a scene as
it is easy to imagine.
The whole landscape was gray, seen
through the driving rain. Far away the
dreary cabins seemed to sink and sink to
earth in abject misery. Above their heads
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 25
the live-oak branches were beating with sad
monotony against the blackened roof. Great
pools of water had formed in the yard, which
was deserted by every living thing ; for the
little darkies had scampered away to their
cabins, the dogs had run to their kennels,
and the hens were puffing big with wretch
edness under the scanty shelter of a fallen
Certainly a situation to make a young man
groan with ennui, if he is used to his daily
stroll on Canal Street, and pleasant after
noons at the club. But Off dean thought it
delightful. He only wondered that he had
never known, or some one had never told
him, how charming a place an old, dismantled
plantation can be when it rains. But as
well as he liked it, he could not linger there
forever. Business called him back to New
Orleans, and after a few days he went away.
The interest which he felt in the improve
ment of this plantation was of so deep a
nature, however, that he found himself think
ing of it constantly. He wondered if the
timber had all been felled, and how the
fencing was coming on. So great was his
desire to know such things that much cor
respondence was required between himself
26 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
and Euphrasie, and he watched eagerly for
those letters that told him of her trials and
vexations with carpenters, bricklayers, and
shingle - bearers. But in the midst of it,
Off dean suddenly lost interest in the progress
of work on the plantation. Singularly
enough, it happened simultaneously with the
arrival of a letter from Euphrasie which an
nounced in a modest postscript that she was
going down to the city with the Duplans for
When Offdean learned that Euphrasie
was coming to New Orleans, he was de
lighted to think he would have an opportu
nity to make some return for the hospitality
which he had received from her father. He
decided at once that she must see every
thing : day processions and night parades,
balls and tableaux, operas and plays. He
would arrange for it all, and he went to the
length of begging to be relieved of certain
duties that had been assigned him at the
club, in order that he might feel himself
perfectly free to do so.
The evening following Euphrasie s arrival,
Offdean hastened to call upon her, away
A NO-ACCOUNT CfiEOLE. 27
down on Esplanade Street. She and the
Duplans were staying there with old Mme.
Carantelle, Mrs. Duplan s mother, a delight
fully conservative old lady who had not
" crossed Canal Street " for many years.
He found a number of people gathered in
the long high-ceiled drawing-room, young
people and old people, all talking French,
and some talking louder than they would
have done if Madame Carantelle had not
been so very deaf.
When Offdean entered, the old lady was
greeting some one who had come in just be
fore him. It was Placide, and she was call
ing him Gregoire, and wanting to know how
the crops were up on Eed River. She met
every one from the country with this stereo
typed inquiry, which placed her at once on
the agreeable and easy footing she liked.
Somehow Offdean had not counted on
finding Euphrasie so well provided with en
tertainment, and he spent much of the even
ing in trying to persuade himself that the
fact was a pleasing one in itself. But he
wondered why Placide was with her, and sat
so persistently beside her, and danced so re
peatedly with her when Mrs. Duplan played
upon the piano. Then he could not see by
28 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
what right these young Creoles had already
arranged for the Proteus ball, and every other
entertainment that he had meant to provide
He went away without having had a word
alone with the girl whom he had gone to see.
The evening had proved a failure. He did
not go to the club as usual, but went to his
rooms in a mood which inclined him to read
a few pages from a stoic philosopher whom
he sometimes affected. But the words of
wisdom that had often before helped him
over disagreeable places left no impress to
night. They were powerless to banish from
his thoughts the look of a pair of brown
eyes, or to drown the tones of a girl s voice
that kept singing in his soul.
Placide was not very well acquainted with
the city ; but that made no difference to him
so long as he was at Euphrasie s side. His
brother Hector, who lived in some obscure
corner of the town, would willingly have
made his knowledge a more intimate one ;
but Placide did not choose to learn the les
sons that Hector was ready to teach. He
asked nothing better than to walk with Eu-
phrasie along the streets, holding her parasol
at an agreeable angle over her pretty head,
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 29
or to sit beside her in the evening at the
play, sharing her frank delight.
When the night of the Mardi Gras ball
came, he felt like a lost spirit during the
hours he was forced to remain away from
her. He stood in the dense crowd on the
street gazing up at her, where she sat on the
club - house balcony amid a bevy of gayly
dressed women. It was not easy to distin
guish her, but he could think of no more
agreeable occupation than to stand down
there on the street trying to do so.
She seemed during all this pleasant time
to be entirely his own, too. It made him
very fierce to think of the possibility of her
not being entirely his own. But he had.
no cause whatever to think this. She had
grown conscious and thoughtful of late about
him and their relationship. She often com
muned with herself, and as a result tried to
act toward him as an engaged girl would
toward Icier fiance. Yet a wistful look came
sometimes into the brown eyes when she
walked the streets with Placide, and eagerly
scanned the faces of passers-by.
Off dean had written her a note, very stud
ied, very formal, asking to see her a certain
day and hour, to consult about matters on
30 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
the plantation, saying he had found it so
difficult to obtain a word with her, that he
was forced to adopt this means, which he
trusted would not be offensive.
This seemed perfectly right to Euphrasie.
She agreed to see him one afternoon
the day before leaving town in the long,
stately drawing-room, quite alone.
It was a sleepy day, too warm for the
season. Gusts of moist air were sweeping
lazily through the long corridors, rattling
the slats of the half-closed green shutters,
and bringing a delicious perfume from the
courtyard where old Chariot was watering
the spreading palms and brilliant parterres.
A group of little children had stood awhile
quarreling noisily under the windows, but
had moved on down the street and left quiet
Offdean had not long to wait before Erf-
phrasie came to him. She had lost some of
that ease which had marked her manner
during their first acquaintance. Now, when
she seated herself before him, she showed a
disposition to plunge at once into the sub
ject that had brought him there. He was
willing enough that it should play some role,
since it had been his pretext for coming ;
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 31
but he soon dismissed it, and with it much
restraint that had held him till now. He
simply looked into her eyes, with a gaze that
made her shiver a little, and began to com
plain because she was going away next day
and he had seen nothing of her ; because he
had wanted to do so many things when she
came why had she not let him ?
" You fo get I m no stranger here," she
told him. " I know many people. I ve
been coming so often with Mme. Duplan.
I wanted to see mo of you, Mr. Off dean "
" Then you ought to have managed it ;
you could have done so. It s it s aggra
vating," he said, far more bitterly than the
subject warranted, " when a man has so set
his heart upon something."
" But it was 11 anything ver important,"
she interposed ; and they both laughed, and
got safely over a situation that would soon
have been strained, if not critical.
Waves of happiness were sweeping through
the soul and body of the girl as she sat there
in the drowsy afternoon near the man whom
she loved. It mattered not what they talked
about, or whether they talked at all. They
were both scintillant with feeling. If Off-
dean had taken Euphrasie s hands in his
32 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
and leaned forward and kissed her lips, it
would have seemed to both only tlje rational
outcome of things that stirred them. But
he did not do this. He knew now that over
whelming passion was taking possession of
him. He had not to heap more coals upon
the fire ; on the contrary, it was a moment
to put on the brakes, and he was a young
gentleman able to do this when circum
However, he held her hand longer than he
needed to when he bade her good-by. For
he got entangled in explaining why he should
have to go back to the plantation to see how
matters stood there, and he dropped her hand
only when the rambling speech was ended.
He left her sitting by the window in a big
brocaded armchair. She drew the lace cur
tain aside to watch him pass in the street.
He lifted his hat and smiled when he saw
her. Any other man she knew would have
done the same thing, but this simple act
caused the blood to surge to her cheeks. She
let the curtain drop, and sat there like one
dreaming. Her eyes, intense with the un
natural light that glowed in them, looked
steadily into vacancy, and her lips stayed
parted in the half -smile that did not want to
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 33
Placide found her thus, a good while after
ward, when he came in, full of bustle, with
theatre tickets in his pocket for the last
night. She started up, and went eagerly to
" Were have you been, Placide ? " she
asked with unsteady voice, placing her hands
on his shoulders with a freedom that was
new and strange to him.
He appeared to her suddenly as a refuge
from something, she did not know what, and
she rested her hot cheek against his breast.
This made him mad, and he lifted her face
and kissed her passionately upon the lips.
She crept from his arms after that, and
went away to her room, and locked herself
in. Her poor little inexperienced soul was
torn and sore. She knelt down beside her
bed, and sobbed a little and prayed a little.
She felt that she had sinned, she did not
know exactly in what ; but a fine nature
warned her that it was in Placide s kiss.
The spring came early in Orville, and so
subtly that no one could tell exactly when
it began. But one morning the roses were
so luscious in Placide s sunny parterres, the
34 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
peas and bean-vines and borders of strawber
ries so rank in his trim vegetable patches,
that he called out lustily, " No mo winta,
Judge ! " to the staid Judge Blount, who
went ambling by on his gray pony.
" There s right smart o folks don t know
it, Santien," responded the judge, with occult
meaning that might be applied to certain in
debted clients back on the bayou who had
not broken land yet. Ten minutes later the
judge observed sententiously, and apropos of
nothing, to a group that stood waiting for
the post-office to open :
" I see Santien s got that noo fence o his
painted. And a pretty piece o work it is,"
he added reflectively.
" Look lack Placide goin pent mo an de
fence," sagaciously snickered Tit-Edouard,
a strolling maigre-echine of indefinite occu
pation. " I seen im, me, pesterin wid all
kine o pent on a piece o bo d yistiday."
" I knows he gwine paint mo an de
fence," emphatically announced Uncle Ab-
ner, in a tone that carried conviction.
" He gwine paint de house ; dat what he
gwine do. Did n Marse Luke Williams
orda de paints ? An did n I done kyar
em up dah myse f ? "
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 35
Seeing the deference with which this posi
tive piece of knowledge was received, the
judge coolly changed the subject by an
nouncing that Luke Williams s Durham bull
had broken a leg the night before in Luke s
new pasture ditch, a piece of news that fell
among his hearers with telling, if paralytic
But most people wanted to see for them
selves these astonishing things that Placide
was doing. And the young ladies of the
village strolled slowly by of afternoons in
couples and arm in arm. If Placide hap
pened to see them, he would leave his work
to hand them a fine rose or a bunch of gera
niums over the dazzling white fence. But
if it chanced to be Tit-Edouard or Luke
Williams, or any of the young men of Or-
ville, he pretended not to see them, or to
hear the ingratiating cough that accompanied
their lingering footsteps.
In his eagerness to have his home sweet
and attractive for Euphrasie s coming, Pla
cide had gone less frequently than ever be
fore up to Natchitoches. He worked and
whistled and sang until the yearning for the
girl s presence became a driving need ; then
he would put away his tools and mount his
36 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
horse as the day was closing, and away he
would go across bayous and hills and fields
until he was with her again. She had never
seemed to Placide so lovable as she was then.
She had grown more womanly and thought
ful. Her cheek had lost much of its color,
and the light in her eyes flashed less often.
But her manner had gained a something of
pathetic tenderness toward her lover that
moved him with an intoxicating happiness.
He could hardly wait with patience for that
day in early April which would see the ful
fillment of his lifelong hopes.
After Euphrasie s departure from New
Orleans, Offdean told himself honestly that
he loved the girl. But being yet unsettled in
life, he felt it was no time to think of mar
rying, and, like the worldly-wise young gen
tleman that he was, resolved to forget the
little Natchitoches girl. He knew it would
be an affair of some difficulty, but not an im
possible thing, so he set about forgetting her.
The effort made him singularly irascible.
At the office he was gloomy and taciturn ;
at the club he was a bear. A few young
ladies whom he called upon were astonished
and distressed at the cynical views of life
which he had so suddenly adopted.
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 37
When he had endured a week or more of
such humor, and inflicted it upon others, he
abruptly changed his tactics. He decided
not to fight against his love for Euphrasie.
He would not marry her, certainly not ;
but he would let himself love her to his
heart s bent, until that love should die a
natural death, and not a violent one as he
had designed. He abandoned himself com
pletely to his passion, and dreamed of the
girl by day and thought of her by night.
How delicious had been the scent of her
hair, the warmth of her breath, the nearness
of her body, that rainy day when they stood
close together upon the veranda ! He re
called the glance of her honest, beautiful
eyes, that told him things which made his
heart beat fast now when he thought of
them. And then her voice ! Was there
another like it when she laughed or when
she talked ! Was there another woman in
the world possessed of so alluring a charm
as this one he loved !
He was not bearish now, with these sweet
thoughts crowding his brain and thrilling
his blood ; but he sighed deeply, and worked
languidly, and enjoyed himself listlessly.
One day he sat in his room puffing the
38 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
air thick with sighs and smoke, when a
thought came suddenly to him an inspira
tion, a very message from heaven, to judge
from the cry of joy with which he greeted
it. He sent his cigar whirling through the
window, over the stone paving of the street,
and he let his head fall down upon his arms,
folded upon the table.
It had happened to him, as it does to
many, that the solution of a vexed question
flashed upon him when he was hoping least
for it. He positively laughed aloud, and
somewhat hysterically. In the space of a
moment he saw the whole delicious future
which a kind fate had mapped out for him :
those rich acres upon the Red River his own,
bought and embellished with his inheritance ;
and Euphrasie, whom he loved, his wife and
companion throughout a life such as he
knew now he had craved for, a life that,
imposing bodily activity, admits the intel
lectual repose in which thought unfolds.
Wallace Offdean was like one to whom a
divinity had revealed his vocation in life,
no less a divinity because it was love. If
doubts assailed him of Euphrasie s consent,
they were soon stilled. For had they not
spoken over and over to each other the mute
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 39
and subtile language of reciprocal love out
under the forest trees, and in the quiet night
time on the plantation when the stars shone ?
And never so plainly as in the stately old
drawing-room down 011. Esplanade Street.
Surely no other speech was needed then,
save such as their eyes told. Oh, he knew
that she loved him ; he was sure of it ! The
knowledge made him all the more eager now
to hasten to her, to tell her that he wanted
her for his very own.
If Offdean had stopped in Natchitoches
on his way to the plantation, he would have
heard something there to astonish him, to
say the very least ; for the whole town was
talking of Euphrasie s wedding, which was
to take place in a few days. But he did not
linger. After securing a horse at the stable,
he pushed on with all the speed of which
the animal was capable, and only in such
company as his eager thoughts afforded him.
The plantation was very quiet, with that
stillness which broods over broad, clean
acres that furnish no refuge for so much as
a bird that sings. The negroes were scat
tered about the fields at work, with hoe and
40 A NO -AC COUNT CREOLE.
plow, under the sun, and old Pierre, on his
horse, was far off in the midst of them.
Placide had arrived in the morning, after
traveling all night, and had gone to his room
for an hour or two of rest. He had drawn
the lounge close up to the window to get
what air he might through the closed shut
ters. He was just beginning to doze when
he heard Euphrasie s light footsteps ap
proaching. She stopped and seated herself
so near that he could have touched her if he
had but reached out his hand. Her nearness
banished all desire to sleep, and he lay there
content to rest his limbs and think of her.
The portion of the gallery on which Eu-
phrasie sat was facing the river, and away
from the road by which Offdean had reached
the house. After fastening his horse, he
mounted the steps, and traversed the broad
hall that intersected the house from end to
end, and that was open wide. He found
Euphrasie engaged upon a piece of sewing.
She was hardly aware of his presence before
he had sea,ted himself beside her.
She could not speak. She only looked at
him with frightened eyes, as if his presence
were that of some disembodied spirit.
" Are you not glad that I have come ? "
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 41
he asked her. " Have I made a mistake in
coming?" He was gazing into her eyes,
seeking to read the meaning of their new.
and strange expression.
" Am I glad ? " she faltered. " I don
know. Wat has that to do ? You ve
come to see the work, of co se. It s it s
only half done, Mr. Offdean. They would n
listen to me or to papa, an you did n seem
" I have n t come to see the work," he
said, with a smile of love and confidence.
" I am here only to see you, to say how
much I want you, and need you to tell you
how I love you."
She rose, half choking with words she
could not utter. But he seized her hands
and held her there.
" The plantation is mine, Euphrasie, or
it will be when you say that you will be my
wife," he went on excitedly. " I know that
you love me "
" I do not ! " she exclaimed wildly. " Wat
do you mean? How do you dare," she
gasped, " to say such things w en you know
that in two days I shall be married to Pla-
cide ? " The last was said in a whisper ; it
was like a wail.
42 A NO- AC COUNT CREOLE.
" Married to Placide ! " he echoed, as if
striving to understand, to grasp some part
of his own stupendous folly and blindness.
" I knew nothing of it," he said hoarsely.
" Married to Placide ! I would never have
spoken to you as I did, if I -had known.
You believe me, I hope? Please say that
you forgive me."
He spoke with long silences between his
" Oh, there is n anything to fo give.
You ve only made a mistake. Please leave
me, Mr. Offdean. Papa is out in the fieF,
I think, if you would like to speak with him.
Placide is somew ere on the place."
" I shall mount my horse and go see what
work has been done," said Offdean, rising.
An unusual pallor had overspread his face,
and his mouth was drawn with suppressed
pain. " I must turn my fool s errand to
some practical good," he added, with a sad
attempt at playfulness ; and with no further
word he walked quickly away.
She listened to his going. Then all the
wretchedness of the past months, together
with the sharp distress of the moment,
voiced itself in a sob : " O God O my
God, he p me ! "
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 43
But she could not stay out there in the
broad day for any chance comer to look upon
her uncovered sorrow.
Placid e heard her rise and go to her room.
When he had heard the key turn in the lock,
he got up, and with quiet deliberation pre
pared to go out. He drew on his boots, then
his coat. He took his pistol from the dress
ing-bureau, where he had placed it a while
before, and after examining its chambers
carefully, thrust it into his pocket. He had
certain work to do with the weapon before
night. But for Euphrasie s presence he
might have accomplished it very surely a
moment ago, when the hound as he called
him stood outside his window. He did
not wish her to know anything of his move
ments, and he left his room as quietly as pos
sible, and mounted his horse, as Offdean had
" La Chatte," called Placide to the old
woman, who stood in her yard at the wash-
tub, " w ich way did that man go ? "
" Wat man dat ? I is n studyin bout
no mans ; I got nough to do wid dis heah
washin . To God, I don know w at man
you s talkin bout "
" La Chatte, w ich way did that man go ?
44 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
Quick, now! " with the deliberate tone and
glance that had always quelled her.
" Ef you s talkin bout dat Noo Orleans
man, I could a tole you dat. He done tuck
de road to de cocoa-patch," plunging her
black arms into the tub with unnecessary
energy and disturbance.
" That s enough. I know now he s gone
into the woods. You always was a liar, La
" Dat his own lookout, de smoove-tongue
raskil," soliloquized the woman a moment
later. " I done said he did n have no call
to come heah, caperin roun Miss Phrasie."
Placide was possessed by only one thought,
which was a want as well, to put an end
to this man who had come between him and
his love. It was the same brute passion that
drives the beast to slay when he sees the
object of his own desire laid hold of by an
He had heard Euphrasie tell the man she
did not love him, but what of that? Had
he not heard her sobs, and guessed what her
distress was? It needed no very flexible
mind to guess as much, when a hundred
signs besides, unheeded before, came surging
to his memory. Jealousy held him, and rage
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 45
Offdean, as he rode along under the trees
in apathetic despondency, heard some one
approaching him on horseback, and turned
aside to make room in the narrow path
It was not a moment for punctilious
scruples, and Placide had not been hindered
by such from sending a bullet into the back
of his rival. The only thing that stayed him
was that Offdean must know why he had to
" Mr. Offdean," Placide said, reining his
horse with one hand, while he held his pistol
openly in the other, " I was in my room
w ile ago, and yeared w at you said to
Euphrasie. I would a killed you then if
she had n been longside o you. I could
a killed you jus now w en I come up behine
"Well, why did n t you?" asked Off-
dean, meanwhile gathering his faculties to
think how he had best deal with this mad
" Because I wanted you to know who done
it, an w at he done it for."
" Mr. Santien, I suppose to a person in
your frame of mind it will make no differ
ence to know that I m unarmed. But if
46 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
you make any attempt upon my life, I shall
certainly defend myself as best I can."
" Defen yo se f, then."
" You must be mad," said Offdean,
quickly, and looking straight into Placide s
eyes, " to want to soil your happiness with
murder. I thought a Creole knew better
than that how to love a woman."
" By ! are you goin to learn me how
to love a woman ? "
"No, Placide," said Offdean eagerly, as
they rode slowly along ; " your own honor is
going to tell you that. The way to love a
woman is to think first of her happiness. If
you love Euphrasie, you must go to her
clean. I love her myself enough to want
you to do that. I shall leave this place to
morrow ; you will never see me again if I
can help it. Is n t that enough for you?
I m going to turn here and leave you.
Shoot me in the back if you like ; but I
know you won t." And Offdean held out
" I don want to shake han s with you,"
said Placide sulkily. " Go way f om me."
He stayed motionless watching Offdean
ride away. He looked at the pistol in his
hand, and replaced it slowly in his pocket ;
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE, 47
then he removed the broad felt hat which he
wore, and wiped away the moisture that had
gathered upon his forehead.
Offdean s words had touched some chord
within him and made it vibrant ; but they
made him hate the man no less.
" The way to love a woman is to think
firs of her happiness," he muttered reflec
tively. " He thought a Creole knew how to
love. Does he reckon he s goin to learn a
Creole how to love ? "
His face was white and set with despair
now. The rage had all left it as he rode
deeper on into the wood.
Offdean rose early, wishing to take the
morning train to the city. But he was not
before Euphrasie, whom he found in the
large hall arranging the breakfast-table.
Old Pierre was there too, walking slowly
about with hands folded behind him, and
with bowed head.
A restraint hung upon all of them, and
the girl turned to her father and asked him
if Placide were up, seemingly for want of
something to say. The old man fell heavily
into a chair, and gazed upon her in the deep
48 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
" Oh, my po li le Euphrasie ! my po li le
chile ! Mr. Offde ii, you ain t no stranger."
"Bon Dieu! Papa!" cried the girl
sharply, seized with a vague terror. She
quitted her occupation at the table, and
stood in nervous apprehension of what might
" I yaired people say Placide was one no-
count Creole. I nevairwant to believe dat,
me. Now I know dat s true. Mr. Offde n,
you ain t no stranger, you."
Offdean was gazing upon the old man in
" In de night," Pierre continued, " I
yaired some noise on de winder. I go open,
an dere Placide, standin wid his big boot
on, an his w ip w at he knocked wid on de
winder, an his hoss all saddle . Oh, my po
li le chile ! He say, Pierre, I yaired say
Mr. Luke William want his house pent
down in Orville. I reckon I go git de job
befo somebody else teck it. I say, You
come straight back, Placide ? He say,
Don look fer me. An w en I ax im w at
I goin tell to my li le chile, he say, Tell
Euphrasie Placide know better an anybody
livin w at goin make her happy. An he
start way ; den he come back an say, Tell
A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE. 49
dat man I don know who he was talk
bout " tell im he ain t goiii learn nuttin
to a Creole. Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu ! I
don know w at all dat mean."
He was holding the half -fainting Euphra-
sie in his arms, and stroking her hair.
" I always yaired say he was one no- count
Creole. I nevair want to believe dat."
" Don t don t say that again, papa," she
whisperingly entreated, speaking in French.
u Placide has saved me ! "
" He has save you f om w at, Euphrasie ? "
asked her father, in dazed astonishment.
" From sin," she replied to him under her
"I don know w at all dat mean," the old
man muttered, bewildered, as he arose and
walked out on the gallery.
Offdean had taken coffee in his room, and
would not wait for breakfast. When he
went to bid Euphrasie good-by, she sat be
side the table with her head bowed upon her
He took her hand and said good-by to her,
but she did not look up.
" Euphrasie," he asked eagerly, " I may
come back ? Say that I may after a
50 A NO-ACCOUNT CREOLE.
She gave him no answer, and he leaned
down and pressed his cheek caressingly and
entreatingly against her soft thick hair.
" May I, Euphrasie ? " he begged. " So
long as you do not tell me no, I shall come
back, dearest one."
She still made him no reply, but she did
not tell him no.
So he kissed her hand and her cheek,
what he could touch of it, that peeped out
from her folded arm, and went away.
An hour later, when Offdean passed
through Natchitoches, the old town was al
ready ringing with the startling news that
Placide had been dismissed by his fiancee,
and the wedding was off, information which
the young Creole was taking the trouble to
scatter broadcast as he went.
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHI-
PRECISELY at eight o clock every morn
ing except Saturdays and Sundays, Made
moiselle Suzanne St. Denys Godolph would
cross the railroad trestle that spanned Bayou
Boispourri. She might have crossed in the
flat which Mr. Alphonse Laballiere kept
for his own convenience; but the method
was slow and unreliable ; so, every morning
at eight, Mademoiselle St. Denys Godolph
crossed the trestle.
She taught public school in a picturesque
little white frame structure that stood upon
Mr. Laballiere s land, and hung upon the
very brink of the bayou.
Laballiere himself was comparatively a
new-comer in the parish. It was barely six
months since he decided one day to leave
the sugar and rice to his brother Alcee, who
had a talent for their cultivation, and to try
his hand at cotton-planting. That was why
he was up in Natchitoches parish on a piece
of rich, high., Cane River land, knocking
52 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES.
into shape a turnbled-down plantation that
he had bought for next to nothing.
He had often during his perambulations
observed the trim, graceful figure stepping
cautiously over the ties, and had sometimes
shivered for its safety. He always ex
changed a greeting with the girl, and once
threw a plank over a muddy pool for her to
step upon. He caught but glimpses of her
features, for she wore an enormous sun-bon
net to shield her complexion, that seemed
marvelously fair ; while loosely - fitting
leather gloves protected her hands. He
knew she was the school-teacher, and also
that she was the daughter of that very pig
headed old Madame St. Denys Godolph
who was hoarding her barren acres across
the bayou as a miser hoards gold. Starving
over them, some people said. But that was
nonsense ; nobody starves on a Louisiana
plantation, unless it be with suicidal intent.
These things he knew, but he did not
know why Mademoiselle St. Denys Godolph
always answered his salutation with an air
of chilling hauteur that would easily have
paralyzed a less sanguine man.
The reason was that Suzanne, like every
one else, had heard the stories that were
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES. 53
going the* rounds about him. People said
he was entirely too much at home with the
free mulattoes. 1 It seems a dreadful thing
to say, and it would be a shocking thing to
think of a Laballire ; but it was n t true.
When Laballiere took possession of his
land, he found the plantation-house occupied
by one Giestiii and his swarming family.
It was past reckoning how long the free
mulatto and his people had been there. The
house was a six-room, long, shambling affair,
shrinking together from decrepitude. There
was not an entire pane of glass in the struc
ture ; and the Turkey-red curtains flapped in
and out of the broken apertures. But there
is no need to dwell upon details ; it was
wholly unfit to serve as a civilized human
habitation ; and Alphonse Laballiere would
no sooner have disturbed its contented oc
cupants than he would have scattered a
family of partridges nesting in a corner of
his field. He established himself with a
few belongings in the best cabin he could
find on the place, and, without further ado,
proceeded to supervise the building of house,
1 A term still applied in Louisiana to mulattoes who
were never in slavery, and whose families in most in
stances were themselves slave owners.
54 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCH1TOCHES.
of gin, of this, that, and the other, and to
look into the hundred details that go to
set a neglected plantation in good work
ing order. He took his meals at the free
mulatto s, quite apart from the family, of
course ; and they attended, not too skill
fully, to his few domestic wants.
Some loafer whom he had snubbed re
marked one day in town that Laballiere had
more use for a free mulatto than he had for
a white man. It was a sort of catching
thing to say, and suggestive, and was re
peated with the inevitable embellishments.
One morning when Laballiere sat eating
his solitary breakfast, and being waited
upon by the queenly Madame Giestin and a
brace of her weazened boys, Giestin himself
came into the room. He was about half the
size of his wife, puny and timid. He stood
beside the table, twirling his felt hat aim
lessly and balancing himself insecurely on
his high-pointed boot-heels.
" Mr. Laballiere," he said, " I reckon I
tell you ; it s betta you git shed o me en
my fambly. Jis like you want, yas."
" What in the name of common sense are
you talking about ? " asked Laballiere, look
ing up abstractedly from his New Orleans
paper. Giestin wriggled uncomfortably.
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES. 55
" It s heap o story goin roun bout
you, if you want b lieve me." And he
snickered and looked at his wife, who thrust
the end of her shawl into her mouth and
walked from the room with a tread like the
Empress Eugenie s, in that elegant woman s
" Stories ! " echoed Laballiere, his face
the picture of astonishment. " Who
where what stories ? "
" Yon a in town en all about. It s heap
o tale goin roun , yas. They say how come
you mighty fon o mulatta. You done sho-
shiate wid de mulatta down yon a on de suga
plantation, tell you can t res lessen it s
mulatta roun you."
Laballiere had a distressingly quick tem
per. His fist, which was a strong one, came
down upon the wobbling table with a crash
that sent half of Madame Giestin s crockery
bouncing and crashing to the floor. He
swore an oath that sent Madame Giestin and
her father and grandmother, who were all
listening in the next room, into suppressed
convulsions of mirth.
" Oh, ho ! so I m not to associate with
whom I please in Natchitoches parish. We 11
see about that. Draw up your chair, Gies-
56 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES.
tin. Call your wife and your grandmother
and the rest of the tribe, and we 11 break
fast together. By thunder ! if I want to
hobnob with mulattoes, or negroes or Choc-
taw Indians or South Sea savages, whose
business is it but my own ? "
"I don know, me. It s jis like I tell
you, Mr. Laballiere," and Giestin selected
a huge key from an assortment that hung
against the wall, and left the room.
A half hour later, Laballiere had not yet
recovered his senses. He appeared suddenly
at the door of the schoolhouse, holding by
the shoulder one of Giestin s boys. Made
moiselle St. Denys Godolph stood at the
opposite extremity of the room. Her sun-
bonnet hung upon the wall, now, so Labal
liere could have seen how charming she was,
had he not at the moment been blinded by
stupidity. Her blue eyes that were fringed
with dark lashes reflected astonishment at
seeing him there. Her hair was dark like
her lashes, and waved softly about her
smooth, white forehead.
" Mademoiselle," began Laballiere at once,
" I have taken the liberty of bringing a new
pupil to you."
Mademoiselle St. Denys Godolph paled
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCIIITOCHES. 57
suddenly and her voice was unsteady when
she replied :
" You are too considerate, Monsieur. Will
you be so kine to give me the name of the
scholar whom you desire to int oduce into
this school ? " She knew it as well as he.
" What s your name, youngster ? Out
with it ! " cried Laballiere, striving to shake
the little free mulatto into speech ; but he
stayed as dumb as a mummy.
" His name is Andre* Giestin. You know
him. He is the son "
" Then, Monsieur," she interrupted, " per
mit me to remine you that you have made a
se ious mistake. This is not a school con
ducted f o the education of the colored popu
lation. You will have to go elsew ere with
" I shall leave my protege right here,
Mademoiselle, and I trust you 11 give him
the same kind attention you seem to accord
to the others ; " saying which Laballiere
bowed himself out of her presence. The lit
tle Giestin, left to his own devices, took only
the time to give a quick, wary glance round
the room, and the next instant he bounded
through the open door, as the nimblest of
four-footed creatures might have done.
58 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCH1TOCHES.
Mademoiselle St. Denys Godolph con
ducted school during the hours that remained,
with a deliberate calmness that Would have
seemed ominous to her pupils, had they been
better versed in the ways of young women.
When the hour for dismissal came, she
rapped upon the table to demand attention.
"Chil ren," she began, assuming a re
signed and dignified mien, "you all have
been witness to-day of the insult that has
been offered to yo teacher by the person
upon whose Ian this schoolhouse stan s. I
have nothing further to say on that subjec .
I only shall add that to-morrow yo teacher
shall sen the key of this schoolhouse, to
gether with her resignation, to the gentlemen
who compose the school-boa d." There fol
lowed visible disturbance among the young
" I ketch that li le m latta, I make im see
sight , yas," screamed one.
" Nothing of the kine, Ma^thurin, you mus
take no such step, if only out of considera
tion fo my wishes. The person who has
offered the affront I consider beneath my
notice. Andre, on the other han , is a chile
of good impulse, an by no means to blame.
As you all perceive, he has shown mo taste
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCH1TOCHES. 59
and judgment than those above him, f om
whom we might have espected good breed
ing, at least."
She kissed them all, the little boys and
the little girls, and had a kind word for
each. " Et toi, mon petit Numa, j espere
qu un autre " She could not finish the
sentence, for little Numa, her favorite, to
whom she had never been able to impart
the first word of English, was blubbering at
a turn of affairs which he had only misera
bly guessed at.
She locked the schoolhouse door and
walked away towards the bridge. By the
time she reached it, the little Cadians had
already disappeared like rabbits, down the
road and through and over the fences.
Mademoiselle St. Denys Godolph did not
cross the trestle the following day, nor the
next nor the next. Laballi&re watched for
her ; for his big heart was already sore and
filled with shame. But more, it stung him
with remorse to realize that he had been the
stupid instrument in taking the bread, as it
were, from the mouth of Mademoiselle St.
He recalled how unflinchingly and haugh
tily her blue eyes had challenged his own.
60 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES.
Her sweetness and charm came back to him
and he dwelt upon them and exaggerated
them, till no Venus, so far unearthed, could
in any way approach Mademoiselle St. Denys
Godolph. He would have liked to exter
minate the Giestin family, from the great-
grandmother down to the babe unborn.
Perhaps Giesten suspected this unfavora
ble attitude, for one morning he piled his
whole family and all his effects into wagons,
and went away ; over into that part of the
parish known as Vide des Mulatres.
Laballiere s really chivalrous nature told
him, beside, that he owed an apology, at
least, to the young lady who had taken his
whim so seriously. So he crossed the bayou
one day and penetrated into the wilds where
Madame St. Denys Godolph ruled.
An alluring little romance formed in his
mind as he went ; he fancied how easily it
might follow the apology. He was almost
in love with Mademoiselle St. Denys Go
dolph when he quitted his plantation. By
the time he had reached hers, he was wholly
He was met by Madame mere, a sweet-
eyed, faded woman, upon whom old age had
fallen too hurriedly to completely efface all
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES. 61
traces of youth. But the house was old be
yond question ; decay had eaten slowly to
the heart of it during the hours, the days,
and years that it had been standing.
"I have come to see your daughter, ma-
dame," began Laballiere, all too bluntly ;
for there is no denying he was blunt.
" Mademoiselle St. Denys Godolph is not
presently at home, sir," madame replied.
" She is at the time in New Orleans. She
fills there a place of high trus an employ
ment, Monsieur Laballiere."
When Suzanne had ever thought of New
Orleans, it was always in connection with
Hector Santien, because he was the only
soul she knew who dwelt there. He had
had no share in obtaining for her the posi
tion she had secured with one of the leading
dry-goods firms ; yet it was to him she ad
dressed herself when her arrangements to
leave home were completed.
He did not wait for her train to reach the
city, but crossed the river and met her at
Gretna. The first thing he did was to kiss
her, as he had done eight years before when
he left Natchitoches parish. An hour later
he would no more have thought of kissing
62 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES.
Suzanne than he would have tendered an
embrace to the Empress of China. For by
that time he had realized that she was no
longer twelve nor he twenty-four.
She could hardly believe the man who
met her to be the Hector of old. His black
hair was dashed with gray on the temples ;
he wore a short, parted beard and a small
moustache that curled. From the crown of
his glossy silk hat down to his trimly-gai-
tered feet, his attire was faultless. Suzanne
knew her Natchitoches, and she had been to
Shreveport and even penetrated as far as
Marshall, Texas, but in all her travels she
had never met a man to equal Hector in the
elegance of his mien.
They entered a cab, and seemed to drive
for an interminable time through the streets,
mostly over cobble-stones that rendered con
versation difficult. Nevertheless he talked
incessantly, while she peered from the win
dows to catch what glimpses she could,
through the night, of that New Orleans of
which she had heard so much. The sounds
were bewildering : so were the lights, that
were uneven, too, serving to make the patches
of alternating gloom more mysterious.
She had not thought of asking him where
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES. 63
he was taking her. And it was only after
they crossed Canal and had penetrated some
distance into Royal Street, that he told her.
He was taking her to a friend of his, the
dearest little woman in town. That was
Mam an Chavan, who was going to board
and lodge her for a ridiculously small con
Maman Chavan lived within comfortable
walking distance of Canal Street, on one of
those narrow, intersecting streets between
Royal and Chartres. Her house was a tiny,
single -story one, with overhanging gable,
heavily shuttered door and windows and
three wooden steps leading down to the ban
quette. A small garden flanked it on one
side, quite screened from outside view by a
high fence, over which appeared the tops of
orange trees and other luxuriant shrubbery.
She was waiting for them a lovable,
fresh-looking, white-haired, black-eyed, small,
fat little body, dressed all in black. She
understood no English ; which made no
difference. Suzanne and Hector spoke but
French to each other.
Hector did not tarry a moment longer
than was needed to place his young friend
and charge in the older woman s care. He
64 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES.
would not even stay to take a bite of supper
with them. Maman Chavan watched him as
he hurried down the steps and out into the
gloom. Then she said to Suzanne : " That
man is an angel, Mademoiselle, un ange du
" Women, my dear Maman Chavan, you
know how it is with me in regard to women.
I have drawn a circle round my heart, so
at pretty long range, mind you and there
-is not one who gets through it, or over it or
" Blagueur^ va ! " laughed Maman Cha
van, replenishing her glass from the bottle
It was Sunday morning. They were
breakfasting together on the pleasant side
gallery that led by a single step down to
the garden. Hector came every Sunday
morning, an hour or so before noon, to
breakfast with them. He always brought a
bottle of sauterne, a pate, or a mess of arti
chokes or some tempting bit of charcuterie.
Sometimes he had to wait till the two women
returned from hearing mass at the cathe
dral. He did not go to mass himself. They
were both making a Novena on that account,
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES. 65
and had even gone to the expense of burn
ing a round dozen of candles before the
good St. Joseph, for his conversion. When
Hector accidentally discovered the fact, he
offered to pay for the candles, and was dis
tressed at not being permitted to do so.
Suzanne had been in the city more than a
month. It was already the close of Febru
ary, and the air was flower-scented, moist,
and deliciously mild.
"As I said: women, my dear Maman
" Let us hear no more about women ! "
cried Suzanne, impatiently. " CherMaitre!
but Hector can be tiresome when he wants.
Talk, talk ; to say what in the end? "
" Quite right, my cousin ; when I might
have been saying how charming you are this
morning. But don t think that I have n t
noticed it," and he looked at her with a delib
eration that quite unsettled her. She took a
letter from her pocket and handed it to him.
" Here, read all the nice things mamma
has to say of you, and the love messages she
sends to you." He accepted the several
closely written sheets from her and began to
look over them.
" Ah, la bonne tante" he laughed, when
66 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES.
he came to the tender passages that referred
to himself. He had pushed aside the glass
of wine that he had only partly filled at
the beginning of breakfast and that he had
scarcely touched. Maman Chavan again re
plenished her own. She also lighted a cigar
ette. So did Suzanne, who was learning to
smoke. Hector did not smoke ; he did not
use tobacco in any form, he always said to
those who offered him cigars.
Suzanne rested her elbows on the table,
adjusted the ruffles about her wrists, puffed
awkwardly at her cigarette that kept going-
out, and hummed the Kyrie Eleison that she
had heard so beautifully rendered an hour
before at the Cathedral, while she gazed off
into the green depths of the garden. Ma
man Chavan slipped a little silver medal to
ward her, accompanying the action with a
pantomime that Suzanne readily understood.
She, in turn, secretly and adroitly trans
ferred the medal to Hector s coat-pocket.
He noticed the action plainly enough, but
pretended not to.
" Natchitoches has n t changed," he com
mented. " The everlasting can-cans ! when
will they have done with them ? This is n t
little Athenaise Miche, getting married !
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES. 67
Sapristi ! but it makes one old ! And old
Papa Jean-Pierre only dead now ? I thought
he was out of purgatory five years ago. And
who is this Laballiere ? One of the Labal-
lieresof St. James?"
"St. James, mon cher. Monsieur Al-
phonse Laballiere ; an aristocrat from the
4 golden coast. But it is a history, if you
will believe me. Figures vous, Maman
Chavan, pensez done, mon ami " And
with much dramatic fire, during which the
cigarette went irrevocably out, she proceeded
to narrate her experiences with Laballiere.
" Impossible ! " exclaimed Hector when
the climax was reached ; but his indignation
was not so patent as she would have liked it
"And to think of an affront like that
going unpunished ! " was Maman Chavan s
more sympathetic comment.
" Oh, the scholars were only too ready to
offer violence to poor little Andre, but that,
you can understand, I would not permit.
And now, here is mamma gone completely
over to him ; entrapped, God only knows
how ! "
" Yes," agreed Hector, " I see he has been
sending her tamales and boudin blanc"
68 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES.
" Boudin blanc, my friend ! If it were
only that ! But I have a stack of letters, so
high, I could show them to you, sing
ing of Laballire, Laballiere, enough to
drive one distracted. He visits her con
stantly. He is a man of attainment, she
says, a man of courage, a man of heart ; and
the best of company. He has sent her a
bunch of fat robins as big as a tub "
" There is something in that a good
deal in that, mignonne," piped Maman Cha-
" And now boudin blanc ! and she tells
me it is the duty of a Christian to forgive.
Ah, no ; it s no use ; mamma s ways are past
Suzanne was never in Hector s company
elsewhere than at Maman Chavan s. Beside
the Sunday visit, he looked in upon them
sometimes at dusk, to chat for a moment or
two. He often treated them to theatre tick
ets, and even to the opera, when business
was brisk. Business meant a little note
book that he carried in his pocket, in which
he sometimes dotted down orders from the
country people for wine, that he sold on
commission. The women always went to
gether, unaccompanied by any male escort ;
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCH1TOCHES. 69
trotting along, arm in arm, and brimming
That same Sunday afternoon Hector
walked with them a short distance when
they were on their way to vespers. The three
walking abreast almost occupied the narrow
width of the banquette. A gentleman who
had just stepped out of the Hotel Royal
stood aside to better enable them to pass.
He lifted his hat to Suzanne, and cast a quick
glance, that pictured stupefaction and wrath,
" It s he ! " exclaimed the girl, melodra
matically seizing Mam an Chavan s arm.
" A handsome fellow, all the same," nod
ded the little lady, approvingly. Hector
thought so too. The conversation again
turned upon Laballiere, and so continued
till they reached the side door of the cathe
dral, where the young man left his two com
In the evening Laballiere called upon
Suzanne. Maman Chavan closed the front
door carefully after he entered the small
70 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCH1TOCHES.
parlor, and opened the side one that looked
into the privacy of the garden. Then she
lighted the lamp and retired, just as Suzanne
The girl bowed a little stiffly, if it may be
said that she did anything stiffly. "Mon
sieur Laballiere." That was all she said.
" Mademoiselle St. Denys Godolph," and
that was all he said. But ceremony did not
sit easily upon him.
" Mademoiselle," he began, as soon as
seated, " I am here as the bearer of a mes
sage from your mother. You must under
stand that otherwise I would not be here."
" I do understan , sir, that you an maman
have become very warm frien s during my
absence," she returned, in measured, con
" It pleases me immensely to hear that
from you," he responded, warmly ; " to be
lieve that Madame St. Denys Godolph is my
Suzanne coughed more affectedly than
was quite nice, and patted her glossy braids.
"The message, if you please, Mr. Labal
" To be sure," pulling himself together
from the momentary abstraction into which
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES. 71
he had fallen in contemplating her. " Well,
it s just this ; your mother, you must know,
has been good enough to sell me a fine bit
of land a deep strip along the bayou "
" Impossible ! Mais w at sorcery did you
use to obtain such a thing of my mother,
Mr. Laballiere ? Lan that has been in the
St. Denys Godolph family since time un-
tole ! "
" No sorcery whatever, Mademoiselle, only
an appeal to your mother s intelligence and
common sense ; and she is well supplied with
both. She wishes me to say, further, that
she desires your presence very urgently and
your immediate return home."
" My mother is unduly impatient, surely,"
replied Suzanne, with chilling politeness.
" May I ask, mademoiselle," he broke in,
with an abruptness that was startling, " the
name of the man with whom you were walk
ing this afternoon ? "
She looked at him with unaffected aston
ishment, and told him : " I hardly under-
stan yo question. That gentleman is Mr.
Hector Santien, of one of the firs families
of Natchitoches ; a warm ole frien an far
distant relative of mine."
" Oh, that s his name, is it, Hector San-
72 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES.
tien ? Well, please don t walk on the New
Orleans streets again with Mr. Hector San-
" Yo remarks would be insulting if they
were not so highly amusing, Mr. Labal-
" I beg your pardon if I am insulting ;
and I have no desire to be amusing," and
then Laballiere lost his head. " You are at
liberty to walk the streets with whom you
please, of course," he blurted, with ill-sup
pressed passion, "but if I encounter Mr.
Hector Santien in your company again, in
public, I shall wring his neck, then and
there, as I would a chicken ; I shall break
every bone in his body " Suzanne had
" You have said enough, sir. I even de
sire no explanation of yo words."
" I did n t intend to explain them," he
retorted, stung by the insinuation.
" You will escuse me further," she re
quested icily, motioning to retire.
" Not till oh, not till you have forgiven
me," he cried impulsively, barring her exit ;
for repentance had come swiftly this time.
But she did not forgive him. "I can
wait," she said. Then he stepped aside and
she passed by him without a second glance.
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES. 73
She sent word to Hector the following-
day to come to Jier. And when he was
there, in the late afternoon, they walked to
gether to the end of the vine-sheltered gal
lery, where the air was redolent with the
odor of spring blossoms.
" Hector," she began, after a while, " some
one has told me I should not be seen upon
the streets of New Orleans with you."
He was trimming a long rose-stem with
his sharp penknife. He did not stop nor
start, nor look embarrassed, nor anything of
"Indeed! " he said.
" But, you know," she went on, " if the
saints came down from heaven to tell me
there was a reason for it, I could n t believe
" You would n t believe them, ma petite
Suzanne f " He was getting all the thorns
off nicely, and stripping away the heavy
"I want you to look me in the face,
Hector, and tell me if there is any reason."
He snapped the knife-blade and replaced
the knife in his pocket ; then he looked in
her eyes, so unflinchingly, that she hoped
and believed it presaged a confession of in-
74 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCH1TOCHES.
nocence that she would gladly have accepted.
But he said indifferently: "Yes, there are
"Then I say there are not," she ex
claimed excitedly ; " you are amusing your
self laughing at me, as you always do.
There are no reasons that I will hear or be
lieve. You will walk the streets with me,
will you not, Hector?" she entreated, "and
go to church with me on Sunday ; and, and
oh, it s nonsense, nonsense for you to
say things like that! "
He held the rose by its long, hardy stem,
and swept it lightly and caressingly across
her forehead, along her cheek, and over her
pretty mouth and chin, as a lover might
have done with his lips. He noticed how
the red rose left a crimson stain behind it.
She had been standing, but now she sank
upon the bench that was there, and buried
her face in her palms. A slight convulsive
movement of the muscles indicated a sup
" Ah, Suzanne, Suzanne, you are not
going to make yourself unhappy about a bon
a rien like me. Come, look at me ; tell me
that you are not." He drew her hands
down from her face and held them a while,
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES. 75
bidding her good-by. His own face wore
the quizzical look it often did, as if he were
laughing at her.
" That work at the store is telling on
your nerves, mignonne. Promise me that
you will go back to the country. That will
" Oh, yes ; I am going back home, Hec
" That is right, little cousin," and he pat
ted her hands kindly, and laid them both
down gently into her lap.
He did not return ; neither during the
week nor the following Sunday. Then Su
zanne told Maman Chavan she was going
home. The girl was not too deeply in love
with Hector; but imagination counts for
something, and so does youth.
Laballire was on the train with her. She
felt, somehow, that ^te would be. And yet
she did not dream that he had watched and
waited for her each morning since he parted
He went to her without preliminary of
manner or speech, and held out his hand ;
she extended her own unhesitatingly. She
could not understand why, and she was a
76 IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES.
little too weary to strive to do so. It
seemed as though the sheer force of his will
would carry him to the goal of his wishes.
He did not weary her with attentions dur
ing the time they were together. He sat
apart from her, conversing for the most time
with friends and acquaintances who be
longed in the sugar district through which
they traveled in the early part of the day.
She wondered why he had ever left that
section to go up into Natchitoches. Then
she wondered if he did not mean to speak
to her at all. As if he had read the thought,
he went and sat down beside her.
He showed her, away off across the coun
try, where his mother lived, and his brother
Alcee, and his cousin Clarisse.
On Sunday morning, when Maman Cha
van strove to sound the depth of Hector s
feeling for Suzanne, he told her again:
" Women, my dear Maman Chavan, you
know how it is with me in regard to women,"
and he refilled her glass from the bottle
" Farceur va ! " arid Maman Chavan
laughed, and her fat shoulders quivered
under the white volante she wore.
IN AND OUT OF OLD NATCHITOCHES. 77
A day or two later, Hector was walking
down Canal Street at four in the afternoon.
He might have posed, as he was, for a
fashion-plate. He looked not to the right
nor to the left ; not even at the women who
passed by. Some of them turned to look
When he approached the corner of Royal,
a young man who stood there nudged his
" You know who that is ? " he said, indi
" Well, you are an innocent. Why, that s
Deroustan, the most notorious gambler in
THE sight of a human habitation, even if
it was a rude log cabin with a mud chim
ney at one end, was a very gratifying one to
He had come out of Natchitoches parish,
and had been riding a great part of the day
through the big lonesome parish of Sabine.
He was not following the regular Texas
road, but, led by his erratic fancy, was push
ing toward the Sabine River by circuitous
paths through the rolling pine forests.
As he approached the cabin in the clear
ing, he discerned behind a palisade of pine
saplings an old negro man chopping wood.
"Howdy, Uncle," called out the young-
fellow, reining his horse. The negro looked
up in blank amazement at so unexpected
an apparition, but he only answered : " How
you do, suh," accompanying his speech by
a series of polite nods.
" Who lives yere ? "
" Hit s Mas Bud Aiken w at live heah,
IN SABINE. 79
" WeU, if Mr. Bud Aiken c n affo d to
hire a man to chop his wood, I reckon he
won t grudge me a bite o suppa an a
couple hours res on his gall ry. Wat you
say, ole man ? "
" I say dit Mas Bud Aiken don t hires
me to chop ood. Ef I don t chop dis heah,
his wife got it to do. Dat w y I chops
ood, suh. Go right long in, suh; you
g ine fine Mas Bud some eres roun , ef he
ain t drunk an gone to bed."
Gregoire, glad to stretch his legs, dis
mounted, and led his horse into the small
inclosure which surrounded the cabin. An
unkempt, vicious-looking little Texas pony
stopped nibbling the stubble there to look
maliciously at him and his fine sleek horse,
as they passed by. Back of the hut, and
running plumb up against the pine wood,
was a small, ragged specimen of a cotton-
Gregoire was rather undersized, with a
square, well-knit figure, upon which his
clothes sat well and easily. His corduroy
trousers were thrust into the legs of his
boots ; he wore a blue flannel shirt ; his coat
was thrown across the saddle. In his keen
black eyes had come a puzzled expression,
80 IN SAB WE.
and he tugged thoughtfully at the brown
moustache that lightly shaded his upper
He was trying to recall when and under
what circumstances he had before heard the
name of Bud Aiken. But Bud Aiken him
self saved Gregoire the trouble of further
speculation on the subject. He appeared
suddenly in the small doorway, which his big
body quite filled ; and then Gregoire remem
bered. This was the disreputable so-called
" Texan " who a year ago had run away with
and married Baptiste Choupic s pretty daugh
ter, Tite Reine, yonder on Bayou Pierre, in
Natchitoches parish. A vivid picture of
the girl as he remembered her appeared to
him : her trim rounded figure ; her piquant
face with its saucy black coquettish eyes;
her little exacting, imperious ways that had
obtained for her the nickname of Tite
Reine, little queen. Gregoire had known
her at the Cadian balls that he sometimes
had the hardihood to attend.
These pleasing recollections of Tite
Reine lent a warmth that might otherwise
have been lacking to Gregoire s manner,
when he greeted her husband.
" I hope I fine you well, Mr. Aiken," he
IN SABINE. 81
exclaimed cordially, as he approached and
extended his hand.
" You find me damn porely, suh ; but
you ve got the better o me, ef I may so say."
He was a big good-looking brute, with a
straw-colored " horse-shoe " moustache quite
concealing his mouth, and a several days
growth of stubble on his rugged face. He
was fond of reiterating that women s admi
ration had wrecked his life, quite forgetting
to mention the early and sustained influence
of " Pike s Magnolia " and other brands,
and wholly ignoring certain inborn propen
sities capable of wrecking unaided any ordi
nary existence. He had been lying down,
and looked frouzy and half asleep.
" Ef I may so say, you ve got the better
o me, Mr. er "
" Santien, Gregoire Santien. I have the
pleasure o knowin the lady you married,
suh ; an I think I met you befo , some-
w ere o nother," Gregoire added vaguely.
" Oh," drawled Aiken, waking up, " one
o them Eed Kiver Sanchuns ! " and his face
brightened at the prospect before him of
enjoying the society of one of the Santien
boys. " Mortimer ! " he called in ringing
chest tones worthy a commander at the head
82 IN SABINE.
of his troop. The negro had rested his
axe and appeared to be listening to their
talk, though he was too far to hear what
" Mortimer, come along here an take my
frien Mr. Sanchun s hoss. Git a move
thar, git a move ! " Then turning toward
the entrance of the cabin he called back
through the open door : " Kain ! " it was
his way of pronouncing Tite Reine s name.
" Rain ! " he cried again peremptorily ; and
turning to Gregoire : " she s tendin to
some or other housekeepin truck." Tite
Reine was back in the yard feeding the so! 7
itary pig which they owned, and which Aiken
had mysteriously driven up a few days be
fore, saying he had bought it at Many.
Gregoire could hear her calling out as
she approached : " I m comin , Bud. Yere
I come. Wat you want, Bud ? " breath
lessly, as she appeared in the door frame
and looked out upon the narrow sloping gal
lery where stood the two men. She seemed
to Gregoire to have changed a good deal.
She was thinner, and her eyes were larger,
with an alert, uneasy look in them ; he
fancied the startled expression came from
seeing him there unexpectedly. She wore
IN SABINE. 83
cleanly homespun garments, the same she
had brought with her from Bayou Pierre ;
but her shoes were in shreds. She uttered
only a low, smothered exclamation when she
" Well, is that all you got to say to my
frien Mr. Sanchun ? That s the way with
them Cajuns," Aiken offered apologetically
to his guest ; " ain t got sense enough to
know a white man when they see one."
Gregoire took her hand.
" I m mighty glad to see you, Tite
Keine," he said from his heart. She had
for some reason been unable to speak ; now
she panted somewhat hysterically :
" You mus escuse me, Mista Gregoire.
It s the truth I did n know you firs , stan in
up there." A deep flush had supplanted the
former pallor of her face, and her eyes shone
with tears and ill-concealed excitement.
" I thought you all lived yonda in
Grant," remarked Gregoire carelessly, mak
ing talk for the purpose of diverting Aiken s
attention away from his wife s evident em
barrassment, which he himself was at a loss
" Why, we did live a right smart while
in Grant; but Grant ain t no parish to
84 IN SABINE.
make a livin in. Then I tried Winn and
Caddo a spell ; they was n t no better. But
I tell you, suh, Sabine s a damn sight worse
than any of em. Why, a man can t git a
drink o whiskey here without going out of
the parish f er it, or across into Texas. I m
fixin to sell out an try Yernon."
Bud Aiken s household belongings surely
would not count for much in the contem
plated "selling out." The one room that
constituted his home was extremely bare of
furnishing, a cheap bed, a pine table,
and a few chairs, that was all. On a rough
shelf were some paper parcels representing
the larder. The mud daubing had fallen out
here and there from between the logs of the
cabin; and into the largest of these aper
tures had been thrust pieces of ragged bag
ging and wisps of cotton. A tin basin out
side on the gallery offered the only bathing
facilities to be seen. Notwithstanding these
drawbacks, Gregoire announced his inten
tion of passing the night with Aiken.
" I m jus goin to ask the privilege o
layin down yere on yo gall ry to-night,
Mr. Aiken. My hoss ain t in firs -class
trim ; an a night s res ain t goin to hurt
him o me either." He had begun by de-
IN SABINE. 85
claring his intention of pushing on across
the Sabine, but an imploring look from
Tite Kerne s eyes had stayed the words
upon his lips. Never had he seen in a
woman s eyes a look of such heartbroken
entreaty. He resolved on the instant to
know the meaning of it before setting foot
on Texas soil. Gregoire had never learned
to steel his heart against a woman s eyes,
no matter what language they spoke.
An old patchwork quilt folded double
and a moss pillow which Tite Reine gave
him out on the gallery made a bed that was,
after all, not too uncomfortable for a young
fellow of rugged habits.
Gregoire slept quite soundly after he
laid down upon his improvised bed at nine
o clock. He was awakened toward the
middle of the night by some one gently shak
ing him. It was Tite Reine stooping over
him ; he could see her plainly, for the moon
was shining. She had not removed the
clothing she had worn during the day; but
her feet were bare and looked wonderfully
small and white. He arose on his elbow,
wide awake at once. " Wy, Tite Reine !
w at the devil you mean ? w ere s yo hus-
ban ? "
86 TN SAB1NE.
"The house kin fall on im, ten goin
wake up Bud w en he s sleepin ; he drink
too much." Now that she had aroused
Gregoire, she stood up, and sinking her face
in her bended arm like a child, began to cry
softly. In an instant he was on his feet.
" My God, Tite Eeine ! w at s the
matta ? you got to tell me w at s the
matta." He could no longer recognize
the imperious Tite Reine, whose will had
been the law in her father s household. He
led her to the edge of the low gallery and
there they sat down.
Gregoire loved women. He liked their
nearness, their atmosphere ; the tones of
their voices and the things they said ; their
ways of moving and turning about ; the
brushing of their garments when they
passed him by pleased him. He was flee
ing now from the pain that a woman had
inflicted upon him. When any overpower
ing sorrow came to Gregoire he felt a singu
lar longing to cross the Sabine River and
lose himself in Texas. He had done this
once before when his home, the old Santien
place, had gone into the hands of creditors.
The sight of Tite Reine s distress now
moved him painfully.
IN SABINE. 87
" Wat is it, Tite Reine ? teU me w at it
is," lie kept asking her. She was attempt
ing to dry her eyes on her coarse sleeve.
He drew a handkerchief from his back
pocket and dried them for her.
" They aU weU, yonda ? " ^she asked, halt
ingly, " my popa ? my moma ? the chil en ? "
Gregoire knew no more of the Baptiste
Choupic family than the post beside him.
Nevertheless he answered : " They all right
well, Tite Reine, but they mighty lonesome
" My popa, he got a putty good crop this
" He made right smart o cotton f o Bayou
" He done haul it to the relroad ? "
" No, he ain t quite finish pickin ."
" I hope they all ent sole 4 Putty Girl ? "
she inquired solicitously.
" Well, I should say not ! Yo pa says
they ain t anotha piece o hossflesh in the
pa ish he d want to swap fo Putty Girl. :
She turned to him with vague but fleeting
amazement, " Putty Girl " was a cow !
The autumn night was heavy about them.
The black forest seemed to have drawn
nearer ; its shadowy depths were filled with
88 IN SABINE.
the gruesome noises that inhabit a southern
forest at night time.
" Ain t you f raid sometimes yere, Tite
Heine ? " Gregoire asked, as he felt a light
shiver run through him at the weirdness of
" No," she answered promptly, " I ent
f/ed o nothin cep Bud."
"Then he treats you mean? I thought
" Mista Gregoire," drawing close to him
and whispering in his face, " Bud s killin
me." He clasped her arm, holding her near
him, while an expression of profound pity
escaped him. " Nobody don know, cep
Unc Mort mer," she went on. " I tell you,
he beats me ; my back an arms you ought
to see it s all bliTe. He would a choke
me to death one day w en he was drunk, if
Unc Mort mer had n make im lef go with
his axe ov his head." Gregoire glanced
back over his shoulder toward the room
where the man lay sleeping. He was won
dering if it would really be a criminal act to
go then and there and shoot the top of Bud
Aiken s head off. He himself would hardly
have considered it a crime, but he was not
sure of how others might regard the act.
IN SABINE. 89
"That s w y I wake you up, to tell you,"
she continued. " Then sometime he plague
me mos crazy ; he tell me t ent no preacher,
it s a Texas drummer w at marry him an
me ; an w en I don know w at way to turn
no mo , he say no, it s a Meth dis archbishop,
an keep on laughin bout me, an I don
know w at the truth ! "
Then again, she told how Bud had in
duced her to mount the vicious little mus
tang " Buckeye," knowing that the little
brute would n t carry a woman ; and how it
had amused him to witness her distress and
terror when she was thrown to the ground.
" If I would know how to read an write,
an had some pencil an paper, it s long go
I would wrote to my popa. But it s no pos -
office, it s no relroad, nothin in Sabine.
An you know, Mista Gregoire, Bud say he s
goin carry me yonda to Vernon, an fu ther
off yet, way yonda, an he s goin turn
me loose. Oh, don leave me yere, Mista
Gregoire ! don leave me behine you ! " she
entreated, breaking once more into sobs.
" Tite Reine," he answered, " do you
think I m such a low-down scound el as to
leave you yere with that " He finished
the sentence mentally, not wishing to offend
the ears of Tite Reine.
90 IN SABINE.
They talked on a good while after that.
She would not return to the room where her
husband lay ; the nearness of a friend had
already emboldened her to inward revolt.
Gregoire induced her to lie down and rest
upon the quilt that she had given to him for
a bed. She did so, and broken down by
fatigue was soon fast asleep.
He stayed seated on the edge of the gal
lery and began to smoke cigarettes which he
rolled himself of perique tobacco. He might
have gone in and shared Bud Aiken s bed,
but preferred to stay there near Tite Heine.
He watched the two horses, tramping slowly
about the lot, cropping the dewy wet tufts
Gregoire smoked on. He only stopped
when the moon sank down behind the pine-
trees, and the long deep shadow reached
out and enveloped him. Then he could no
longer see and follow the filmy smoke from
his cigarette, and he threw it away. Sleep
was pressing heavily upon him. He stretched
himself full length upon the rough bare
boards of the gallery and slept until day
Bud Aiken s satisfaction was very genu
ine when he learned that Gregoire proposed
IN SABINE, 91
spending the day and another night with
him. He had already recognized in the
young Creole a spirit not altogether uncon
genial to his own.
Tite Reine cooked breakfast for them.
She made coffee ; of course there was no
milk to add to it, but there was sugar.
From a meal bag that stood in the corner
of the room she took a measure of meal,
and with it made a pone of corn bread. She
fried slices of salt pork. Then Bud sent
her into the field to pick cotton with old Un
cle Mortimer. The negro s cabin was the
counterpart of their own, but stood quite
a distance away hidden in the woods. He
and Aiken worked the crop on shares.
Early in the day Bud produced a grimy
pack of cards from behind a parcel of sugar
on the shelf. Gregoire threw the cards into
the fire and replaced them with a spic and
span new "deck" that he took from his
saddlebags. He also brought forth from the
same receptacle a bottle of whiskey, which he
presented to his host, saying that he himself
had no further use for it, as he had " sworn
off" since day before yesterday, when he
had made a fool of himself in Cloutierville.
They sat at the pine table smoking and
92 IN SABINE.
playing cards all the morning, only desist
ing when Tite Reine came to serve them
with the gumbo-file that she had come out of
the field to cook at noon. She could afford
to treat a guest to chicken gumbo, for she
owned a half dozen chickens that Uncle
Mortimer had presented to her at various
times. There were only two spoons, and
Tite Heine had to wait till the men had fin
ished before eating her soup. She waited
for Gre*goire s spoon, though her husband
was the first to get through. It was a very
In the afternoon she picked cotton again ;
and the men played cards, smoked, and Bud
It was a very long time since Bud Aiken
had enjoyed himself so well, and since he
had encountered so sympathetic and appre
ciative a listener to the story of his event
ful career. The story of Tite Heine s fall
from the horse he told with much spirit,
mimicking quite skillfully the way in which
she had complained of never being permit
ted " to teck a li le pleasure," whereupon
he had kindly suggested horseback riding.
Gregoire enjoyed the story amazingly, which
encouraged Aiken to relate many more of a
IN SABINE. 93
similar character. As the afternoon wore
on, all formality of address between the two
had disappeared: they were "Bud" and
" Gregoire " to each other, and Gregoire
had delighted Aiken s soul by promising to
spend a week with him. Tite Keine was
also touched by the spirit of recklessness in
the air ; it moved her to fry two chickens
for supper. She fried them deliciously in
bacon fat. After supper she again arranged
Gregoire s bed out on the gallery.
The night fell calm and beautiful, with
the delicious odor of the pines floating upon
the air. But the three did not sit up to en
joy it. Before the stroke of nine, Aiken had
already fallen upon his bed unconscious of
everything about him in the heavy drunken
sleep that would hold him fast through the
night. It even clutched him more relent
lessly than usual, thanks to Gregoire s free
gift of whiskey.
The sun was high when he awoke. He
lifted his voice and called imperiously for
Tite Reine, wondering that the coffee-pot
was not on the hearth, and marveling still
more that he did not hear her voice in
quick response with its, " I m comin , Bud.
Yere I come." He called again and again.
94 IN SABINE.
Then he arose and looked out through the
back door to see if she were picking cotton
in the field, but she was not there. He
dragged himself to the front entrance. Gre-
goire s bed was still on the gallery, but the
young fellow was nowhere to be seen.
Uncle Mortimer had come into the yard,
not to cut wood this time, but to pick up
the axe which was his own property, and
lift it to his shoulder.
" Mortimer," called out Aiken, " whur s
my wife ? " at the same time advancing
toward the negro. Mortimer stood still,
waiting for him. " Whur s my wife an
that Frenchman ? Speak out, I say, before
I send you to h 1."
Uncle Mortimer never had feared Bud
Aiken ; and with the trusty axe upon his
shoulder, he felt a double hardihood in the
man s presence. The old fellow passed the
back of his black, knotty hand unctuously
over his lips, as though he relished in ad
vance the words that were about to pass
them. He spoke carefully and deliberately :
"Miss Reiiie," he said, "I reckon she
mus of done struck Natchitoches pa ish
sometime to ard de middle o de night, on
dat ar swif hoss o Mr. Sanchun s."
IN SABINE. 95
Aiken uttered a terrific oath. " Saddle
up Buckeye," he yelled, " before I count
twenty, or 1 11 rip the black hide off yer.
Quick, thar ! Thur ain t iiothin fourf ooted
top o this earth that Buckeye can t run
down." Uncle Mortimer scratched his head
dubiously, as he answered :
" Yas, Mas Bud, but you see, Mr. San-
chun, he done cross de Sabine befo sun-up
A VERY FINE FIDDLE.
WHEN the half dozen little ones were
hungry, old Cleophas would take the fiddle
from its flannel bag and play a tune upon it.
Perhaps it was to drown their cries, or their
hunger, or his conscience, or all three. One
day Fifine, in a rage, stamped her small foot
and clinched her little hands, and declared :
" It s no two way ! I m goin smash
it, dat fiddle, some day in a t ousan piece ! "
" You mus n do dat, Fifine," expostu
lated her father. " Dat fiddle been ol er
an you an me t ree time put togedder.
You done yaird me tell often nough bout
dat Italien w at give it to me w en he die,
long yonder befo de war. An he say,
Cleophas, dat fiddle dat one part my life
w at goin live w en I be dead Dieu
merci ! You talkin too fas , Fifine."
" Well, I m goin do some in wid dat fid
dle, va ! " returned the daughter, only half
mollified. " Mine w at I say."
So once when there were great carryings-
A VERY FINE FIDDLE. 97
on up at the big plantation no end of
ladies and gentlemen from the city, riding,
driving, dancing, and making music upon
all manner of instruments Fifine, with the
fiddle in its flannel bag, stole away and up
to the big house where these festivities were
No one noticed at first the little barefoot
girl seated upon a step of the veranda and
watching, lynx-eyed, for her opportunity.
" It s one fiddle I got for sell," she an
nounced, resolutely, to the first who ques
It was very funny to have a shabby little
girl sitting there wanting to sell a fiddle, and
the child was soon surrounded.
The lustreless instrument was brought
forth and examined, first with amusement,
but soon very seriously, especially by three
gentlemen : one with very long hair that
hung down, another with equally long hair
that stood up, the third with no hair worth
These three turned the fiddle upside down
and almost inside out. They thumped upon
it, and listened. They scraped upon it, and
listened. They walked into the house with
it, and out of the house with it, and into
98 A VERY FINE FIDDLE.
remote corners with it. All this with much
putting of heads together, and talking to
gether in familiar and unfamiliar languages.
And, finally, they sent Fifine away with a
fiddle twice as beautiful as the one she had
brought, and a roll of money besides !
The child was dumb with astonishment,
and away she flew. But when she stopped
beneath a big chinaberry-tree, to further
scan the roll of money, her wonder was re
doubled. There was far more than she could
count, more than she had ever dreamed of
possessing. Certainly enough to top the old
cabin with new shingles ; to put shoes on all
the little bare feet and food into the hungry
mouths. Maybe enough and Fifine s heart
fairly jumped into her throat at the vision
maybe enough to buy Blanchette and her
tiny calf that Unc Simeon wanted to sell !
" It s jis like you say, Fifine," murmured
old Cleophas, huskily, when he had played
upon the new fiddle that night. " It s one
fine fiddle ; an like you say, it shine like
satin. But some way or udder, t ain de same.
Yair, Fifine, take it put it side. I
b lieve, me, I ain goin play de fiddle no
BEYOND THE BAYOU.
THE bayou curved like a crescent around
the point of land on which La Folle s cabin
stood. Between the stream and the hut lay
a big abandoned field, where cattle were
pastured when the bayou supplied them with
water enough. Through the woods that
spread back into unknown regions the woman
had drawn an imaginary line, and past this
circle she never stepped. This was the form
of her only mania.
She was now a large, gaunt black woman,
past thirty-five. Her real name was Jacque
line, but every one on the plantation called
her La Folle, because in childhood she had
been frightened literally " out of her senses,"
and had never wholly regained them.
It was when there had been skirmishing
and sharpshooting all day in the woods.
Evening was near when P tit Maitre, black
with powder and crimson with blood, had
staggered into the cabin of Jacqueline s
mother, his pursuers close at his heels. The
sight had stunned her childish reason.
100 BEYOND THE BAYOU.
She dwelt alone in her solitiry cabin, for
the rest of the quarters had long since been
removed beyond her sight and knowledge.
She had more physical strength than most
men, and made her patch of cotton and corn
and tobacco like the best of them. But of
the world beyond the bayou she had long
known nothing, save what her morbid fancy
People at Bellissime had grown used to
her and her way, and they thought nothing
of it. Even when " Old Mis " died, they
did not wonder that La Folle had not crossed
the bayou, but had stood upon her side of
it, wailing and lamenting.
P tit Maitre was now the owner of Bel
lissime. He was a middle-aged man, with
a family of beautiful daughters about him,
and a little son whom La Folle loved as if
he had been her own. She called him Cheri,
and so did every one else because she did.
None of the girls had ever been to her
what Cheri was. They had each and all
loved to be with her, and to listen to her
wondrous stories of things that always hap
pened " yonda, beyon de bayou."
But none of them had stroked her black
hand quite as Cheri did, nor rested their
BEYOND THE BAYOU 10^
heads against her knee so confidingly, tio*r
fallen asleep in her arms as he used to do.
For Cheri hardly did such things now,
since he had become the proud possessor of
a gun, and had had his black curls cut off.
That summer the summer Cheri gave
La Folle two black curls tied with a knot
of red ribbon the water ran so low in the
bayou that even the little children at Bel-
lissime were able to cross it on foot, and
the cattle were sent to pasture down by the
river. La Folle was sorry when they were
gone, for she loved these dumb companions
well, and liked to feel that they were there,
and to hear them browsing by night up to
her own inclosure.
It was Saturday afternoon, when the fields
were deserted. The men had flocked to a
neighboring village to do their week s trad
ing, and the women were occupied with
household affairs, La Folle as well as the
others. It was then she mended and washed
her handful of clothes, scoured her house,
and did her baking.
In this last employment she never for
got Cheri. To-day she had fashioned cro-
quignoles of the most fantastic and alluring
shapes for him. So when she saw the boy
;L02 BEYOND THE BAYOU.
V" tL l "^itc l i.
cbnle trudging 1 across the old field with his
gleaming little new rifle on his shoulder, she
called out gayly to him, " Cheri ! Cheri ! "
But Cheri did not need the summons, for
he was coming straight to her. His pockets
all bulged out with almonds and raisins and
an orange that he had secured for her from
the very fine dinner which had been given
that day up at his father s house.
He was a sunny-faced youngster of ten.
When he had emptied his pockets, La Folle
patted his round red cheek, wiped his soiled
hands on her apron, and smoothed his hair.
Then she watched him as, with his cakes
in his hand, he crossed her strip of cotton
back of the cabin, and disappeared into the
He had boasted of the things he was go
ing to do with his gun out there.
" You think they got plenty deer in the
wood, La Folle ? " he had inquired, with the
calculating air of an experienced hunter.
"JVbtt, non ! " the woman laughed. " Don t
you look fo no deer, Cheri. Dat s too big.
But you bring La Folle one good fat squir
rel fo her dinner to-morrow, an she goin
be satisfi ."
" One squirrel ain t a bite. I 11 bring you
BEYOND THE BAYOU. 103
mo an one, La Folle," he had boasted
pompously as he went away.
When the woman, an hour later, heard
the report of the boy s rifle close to the
wood s edge, she would have thought no
thing of it if a sharp cry of distress had not
followed the sound.
She withdrew her arms from the tub of
suds in which they had been plunged, dried
them upon her apron, and as quickly as
her trembling limbs would bear her, hurried
to the spot whence the ominous report had
It was as she feared. There she found
Cheri stretched upon the ground, with his
rifle beside him. He moaned piteously :
" I m dead, La Folle ! I m dead ! I m
gone ! "
" Non, non ! " she exclaimed resolutely,
as she knelt beside him. " Put you arm
rouii La Folle s nake, Cheri. Dat s nuttin ;
dat goin be nuttin ." She lifted him in her
Cheri had carried his gun muzzle-down
ward. He had stumbled, he did not know
how. He only knew that he had a ball
lodged somewhere in his leg, and he thought
that his end was at hand. Now, with his
104 BEYOND THE BAYOU.
head upon the woman s shoulder, he moaned
and wept with pain and fright.
" Oh, La Folle ! La Folle I it hurt so
bad ! I can stan it, La Folle ! "
" Don t cry, mon bebe, mon bebe, mon
Cherif" the woman spoke soothingly as
she covered the ground with long strides.
"La Folle goin mine you; Doctor Bonfils
goin come make mon Cheri well agin."
She had reached the abandoned field. As
she crossed it with her precious burden, she
looked constantly and restlessly from side
to side. A terrible fear was upon her,
the fear of the world beyond the bayou,
the morbid and insane dread she had been
under since childhood.
When she was at the bayou s edge she
stood there, and shouted for help as if a life
depended upon it :
"Oh,P titMaitre! Ftit Maitre ! Yenez
done ! Au secours ! Au secours ! "
No voice responded. Cheri s hot tears
were scalding her neck. She called for
each and every one upon the place, and still
no answer came.
She shouted, she wailed ; but whether her
voice remained unheard or unheeded, no
reply came to her frenzied cries. And all
BEYOND THE BAYOU. 105
the while Cheri moaned and wept and en
treated to be taken home to his mother.
La Folle gave a last despairing look
around her. Extreme terror was upon her.
She clasped the child close against her
breast, where he could feel her heart beat
like a muffled hammer. Then shutting her
eyes, she ran suddenly down the shallow
bank of the bayou, and never stopped till
she had climbed the opposite shore.
She stood there quivering an instant as she
opened her eyes. Then she plunged into
the footpath through the trees.
She spoke no more to Cheri, but mut
tered constantly, "Bon Dieu, ayez pitie
La Folle ! Bon Dieu, ayez pitie moi ! "
Instinct seemed to guide her. When the
pathway spread clear and smooth enough
before her, she again closed her eyes tightly
against the sight of that unknown and terri
A child, playing in some weeds, caught
sight of her as she neared the quarters.
The little one uttered a cry of dismay.
" La Folle ! " she screamed, in her pier
cing treble. " La Folle done cross de bayer ! "
Quickly the cry passed down the line of
106 BEYOND THE BAYOU.
" Yonda, La Folle done cross de bayou ! "
Children, old men, old women, young ones
with infants in their arms, flocked to doors
and windows to see this awe-inspiring spec
tacle. Most of them shuddered with super
stitious dread of what it might portend.
" She totin Cheri ! " some of them shouted.
Some of the more daring gathered about
her, and followed at her heels, only to fall
back with new terror when she turned her
distorted face upon them. Her eyes were
bloodshot and the saliva had gathered in a
white foam on her black lips.
Some one had run ahead of her to where
P tit Maitre sat with his family and guests
upon the gallery.
" P tit Maitre ! La Folle done cross de
bayou ! Look her ! Look her yonda totin
Cheri ! " This startling intimation was the
first which they had of the woman s ap
She was now near at hand. She walked
with long strides. Her eyes were fixed
desperately before her, and she breathed
heavily, as a tired ox.
At the foot of the stairway, which she
could not have mounted, she laid the boy in
his father s arms. Then the world that had
BEYOND THE BAYOU. 107
looked red to La Folle suddenly turned
black, like that day she had seen powder
She reeled for an instant. Before a sus
taining arm could reach her, she fell heavily
to the ground.
When La Folle regained consciousness,
she was at home again, in her own cabin
and upon her own bed. The moon rays,
streaming in through the open door and
windows, gave what light was needed to the
old black mammy who stood at the table
concocting a tisane of fragrant herbs. It
was very late.
Others who had come, and found that the
stupor clung to her, had gone again. P tit
Maitre had been there, and with him Doctor
Bonfils, who said that La Folle might die.
But death had passed her by. The voice
was very clear and steady with which she
spoke to Tante Lizette, brewing her tisane
there in a corner.
"Ef you will give me one good drink
tisane, Tante Lizette, I b lieve I m goin
And she did sleep ; so soundly, so health
fully, that old Lizette without compunction
stole softly away, to creep back through the
108 BEYOND THE BAYOU.
moonlit fields to her own cabin in the new
The first touch of the cool gray morning
awoke La Folle. She arose, calmly, as if no
tempest had shaken and threatened her ex
istence but yesterday.
She donned her new blue cottonade and
white apron, for she remembered that this
was Sunday. When she had made for her
self a cup of strong black coffee, and drunk
it with relish, she quitted the cabin and
walked across the old familiar field to the
bayou s edge again.
She did not stop there as she had always
done before, but crossed with a long, steady
stride as if she had done this all her life.
When she had made her way through
the brush and scrub cottonwood-trees that
lined the opposite bank, she found herself
upon the border of a field where the white,
bursting cotton, with the dew upon it,
gleamed for acres and acres like frosted
silver in the early dawn.
La Folle drew a long, deep breath as she
gazed across the country. She walked slowly
and uncertainly, like one who hardly knows
how, looking about her as she went.
The cabins, that yesterday had sent a
BEYOND THE BAYOU. 109
clamor of voices to pursue her, were quiet
now. No one was yet astir at Bellissime.
Only the birds that darted here and there
from hedges were awake, and singing their
When La Folle came to the broad stretch
of velvety lawn that surrounded the house,
she moved slowly and with delight over the
springy turf, that was delicious beneath her
She stopped to find whence came those
perfumes that were assailing her senses with
memories from a time far gone.
There they were, stealing up to her from
the thousand blue violets that peeped out
from green, luxuriant beds. There they
were, showering down from the big waxen
bells of the magnolias far above her head,
and from the jessamine clumps around her.
There were roses, too, without number.
To right and left palms spread in broad and
graceful curves. It all looked like enchant
ment beneath the sparkling sheen of dew.
When La Folle had slowly and cautiously
mounted the many steps that led up to the
veranda, she turned to look back at the per
ilous ascent she had made. Then she caught
sight of the river, bending like a silver bow
110 BEYOND THE BAYOU.
at the foot of Bellissiine. Exultation pos
sessed her soul.
La Folle rapped softly upon a door near
at hand. Cheri s mother soon cautiously
opened it. Quickly and cleverly she dissem
bled the astonishment she felt at seeing La
" Ah, La FoUe ! Is it you, so early ? "
" Oui, niadame. I come ax how my po
li le Cheri to, s mo nin ."
" He is feeling easier, thank you, La
Folle. Dr. Bonfils says it will be nothing
serious. He s sleeping now. Will you
come back when he awakes? "
" Non, madame. I m goin wait yair tell
Cheri wake up." La Folle seated herself
upon the topmost step of the veranda.
A look of wonder and deep content crept
into her face as she watched for the first
time the sun rise upon the new, the beauti
ful world beyond the bayou.
OLD AUNT PEGGY.
WHEN the war was over, old Aunt Peggy
went to Monsieur, and said : -
" Massa, I ain t never gwine to quit yer.
I m gittin ole an feeble, an my days is few
in dis heah Ian o sorrow an sin. All I
axes is a li le co ner whar I kin set down an
wait peaceful fu de en ."
Monsieur and Madame were very much
touched at this mark of affection and fidel
ity from Aunt Peggy. So, in the general
reconstruction of the plantation which im
mediately followed the surrender, a nice
cabin, pleasantly appointed, was set apart
for the old woman. Madame did not even
forget the very comfortable rocking-chair
in which Aunt Peggy might " set down," as
she herself feelingly expressed it, " an wait
fu de eiiV
She has been rocking ever since.
At intervals of about two years Aunt
Peggy hobbles up to the house, and delivers
the stereotyped address which has become
more than familiar :
112 OLD AUNT PEGGY.
" Mist ess, I s come to take a las look at
you all. Le me look at you good. Le me
look at de chillun, de big chillun an de
li le chillun. Le me look at de picters an
de photygraphts an de pianny, an eve ything
fo it s too late. One eye is done gone, an
de udder s a-gwine fas . Any mo nin yo
po ole Aunt Peggy gwine wake up an fin
herse f stone-bline."
After such a visit Aunt Peggy invariably
returns to her cabin with a generously filled
The scruple which Monsieur one time felt
in supporting a woman for so many years in
idleness has entirely disappeared. Of late
his attitude towards Aunt Peggy is simply
one of profound astonishment, wonder at
the surprising age which an old black woman
may attain when she sets her mind to it, for
Aunt Peggy is a hundred and twenty-five, so
It may not be true, however. Possibly
she is older.
THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE.
MR. FEED BARTNER was sorely perplexed
and annoyed to find that a wheel and tire of
his buggy threatened to part company.
" Ef you want," said the negro boy who
drove him, " we kin stop yonda at ole M sie
Jean Ba s an fix it ; he got de bes black-
smif shop in de pa ish on his place."
" Who in the world is old Monsieur Jean
Ba," the young man inquired.
"How come, suh, you don know old M sie
Jean Baptiste Plochel ? He ole, ole. He
sorter quare in he head ev sence his son
M sie Alcibiade got kill in de wah. Yonda
he live ; whar you sees dat che okee hedge
takin up half de road."
Little more than twelve years ago, before
the " Texas and Pacific " had joined the cities
of New Orleans and Shreveport with its
steel bands, it was a common thing to travel
through miles of central Louisiana in a
buggy. Fred Bartner, a young commission
merchant of New Orleans, on business bent.
114 THE RETURN OF ALCIJ5IADE.
had made the trip in this way by easy stages
from his home to a point on Cane River,
within a half day s journey of Natchitoches.
From the mouth of Cane River he had
passed one plantation after another, large
ones and small ones. There was nowhere
sight of anything like a town, except the
little hamlet of Cloutierville, through which
they had sped in the gray dawn. " Dat
town, hit s ole, ole; mos a hund ed year
ole, dey say. Uh, uh, look to me like it
heap ol r an dat," the darkey had com
mented. Now they were within sight of
Monsieur Jean Ba s towering Cherokee
It was Christmas morning, but the sun
was warm and the air so soft and mild that
Bartner found the most comfortable way to
wear his light overcoat was across his knees,
At the entrance to the plantation he dis
mounted and the negro drove away toward
the smithy which stood on the edge of the
From the end of the long avenue of mag
nolias that led to it, the house which con
fronted Bartner looked grotesquely long in
comparison with its height. It was one
story, of pale, yellow stucco ; its massive
THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE. 115
wooden shutters were a faded green. A
wide gallery, topped by the overhanging
roof, encircled it.
At the head of the stairs a very old man
stood. His figure was small and shrunken,
his hair long and snow-white. He wore a
broad, soft felt hat, and a brown plaid shawl
across his bent shoulders. A tall, graceful
girl stood beside him ; she was clad in a
warm-colored blue stuff gown. She seemed
to be expostulating with the old gentleman,
who evidently wanted to descend the stairs
to meet the approaching visitor. Before
Bartner had had time to do more than lift
his hat, Monsieur Jean Ba had thrown his
trembling arms about the young man and
was exclaiming in his quavering old tones :
" A la fin ! mon fils ! a la fin ! " Tears
started to the girl s eyes and she was rosy
with confusion. " Oh, escuse him, sir ;
please escuse him," she whisperingly en
treated, gently striving to disengage the old
gentleman s arms from around the aston
ished Bartner. But a new line of thought
seemed fortunately to take possession of
Monsieur Jean Ba, for he moved away and
went quickly, pattering like a baby, down
the gallery. His fleecy white hair streamed
116 THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE.
out on the soft breeze, and his brown shawl
flapped as he turned the corner.
Bartner, left alone with the girl, pro
ceeded to introduce himself and to explain
his presence there.
" Oh ! Mr. Fred Bartna of New Orleans ?
The commission merchant ! " she exclaimed,
cordially extending her hand. " So well
known in Natchitoches parish. Not our
merchant, Mr. Bartna," she added, naively,
" but jus as welcome, all the same, at my
gran father s."
Bartner felt like kissing her, but he only
bowed and seated himself in the big chair
which she offered him. He wondered what
was the longest time it could take to mend a
She sat before him with her hands pressed
down into her lap, and with an eagerness and
pretty air of being confidential that were
extremely engaging, explained the reasons
for her grandfather s singular behavior.
Years ago, her uncle Alcibiade, in going
away to the war, with the cheerful assurance
of youth, had promised his father that he
would return to eat Christmas dinner with
him. He never returned. And now, of late
years, since Monsieur Jean Ba had begun
THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE. 117
to fail in body and mind, that old, unspoken
hope of long ago had come back to live anew
in his heart. Every Christmas Day he
watched for the coming of Alcibiade.
"Ah! if you knew, Mr. Bartna, how I
have endeavor to distrac his mine from
that thought ! Weeks ago, I tole to all the
negroes, big and li le, If one of you dare to
say the word, Christmas gif, in the hearing
of Monsieur Jean Baptiste, you will have to
answer it to me.
Bartner could not recall when he had been
so deeply interested in a narration.
" So las night, Mr. Bartna, I said to
grandpere, Pe*pere, you know to-morrow
will be the great feas of la Trinite ; we will
read our litany together in the morning and
say a chapelet. He did not answer a word ;
il est malin, oui. But this morning at day
light he was rapping his cane on the back
gallery, calling together the negroes. Did
they not know it was Christmas Day, an a
great dinner mus be prepare for his son
Alcibiade, whom he was especting ! "
" And so he has mistaken me for his son
Alcibiade. It is very unfortunate," said
Bartner, sympathetically. He was a good-
looking, honest-faced young fellow.
118 THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE.
The girl arose, quivering with an inspira
tion. She approached Bartner, and in her
eagerness laid her hand upon his arm.
" Oh, Mr. Bartna, if you will do me a
favor ! The greates favor of my life ! "
He expressed his absolute readiness.
" Let him believe, jus for this one Christ
mas day, that you are his son. Let him have
that Christmas dinner with Alcibiade, that
he has been longing for so many year ."
Bartner s was not a puritanical conscience,
but truthfulness was a habit as well as
a principle with him, and he winced. " It
seems to me it would be cruel to deceive him ;
it would not be " he did not like to say
" right," but she guessed that he meant it.
" Oh, for that," she laughed, " you may
stay as w ite as snow, Mr. Bartna. / will
take all the sin on my conscience. I assume
all the responsibility on my shoulder ."
" Esmee ! " the old man was calling as he
came trotting back, " Esmee, my child," in
his quavering French, " I have ordered the
dinner. Go see to the arrangements of the
table, and have everything faultless."
The dining-room was at the end of the
house, with windows opening upon the side
THE RETURN OF ALC1BIADE. 119
and back galleries. There was a high, sim
ply carved wooden mantelpiece, bearing a
wide, slanting, old-fashioned mirror that re
flected the table and its occupants. The
table was laden with an overabundance.
Monsieur Jean Ba sat at one end, Esmee at
the other, and Bartner at the side.
Two " grif" boys, a big black woman and
a little mulatto girl waited upon them ; there
was a reserve force outside within easy call,
and the little black and yellow faces kept
bobbing up constantly above the window-
sills. Windows and doors were open, and
a fire of hickory branches blazed on the
Monsieur Jean Ba ate little, but that lit
tle greedily and rapidly ; then he stayed in
rapt contemplation of his guest.
" You will notice, Alcibiade, the flavor of
the turkey," he said. " It is dressed with
pecans ; those big ones from the tree down
on the bayou. I had them gathered ex
pressly." The delicate and rich flavor of
the nut was indeed very perceptible.
Bartner had a stupid impression of acting
on the stage, and had to pull himself to
gether every now and then to throw off the
stiffness of the amateur actor. But this
120 THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE.
discomposure amounted almost to paralysis
when he found Mademoiselle Esmee taking
the situation as seriously as her grandfather.
" Mon Dieu ! uncle Alcibiade, you are
not eating ! Mais w ere have you lef your
appetite? Corbeau, fill your young mas
ter s glass. Doralise, you are neglecting
Monsieur Alcibiade ; he is without bread."
Monsieur Jean Ba s feeble intelligence
reached out very dimly ; it was like a
dream which clothes the grotesque and un
natural with the semblance of reality. He
shook his head up and down with pleased
approbation of Esmee s " Uncle Alcibi
ade," that tripped so glibly on her lips.
When she arranged his after-dinner brulot,
a lump of sugar in a flaming teaspoon-
ful of brandy, dropped into a tiny cup of
black coffee, he reminded her, " Your
Uncle Alcibiade takes two lumps, Esmee.
The scamp ! he is fond of sweets. Two
or three lumps, Esmee." Bartner would
have relished his brulot greatly, prepared so
gracefully as it was by Esmee s deft hands,
had it not been for that superfluous lump.
After dinner the girl arranged her grand
father comfortably in his big armchair on
the gallery, where he loved to sit when the
THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE 121
weather permitted. She fastened his shawl
about him and laid a second one across his
knees. She shook up the pillow for his
head, patted his sunken cheek and kissed
his forehead under the soft-brimmed hat.
She left him there with the sun warming
his feet and old shrunken knees.
Esmee and Bartner walked together
under the magnolias. In walking they trod
upon the violet borders that grew rank and
sprawling, and the subtle perfume of the
crushed flowers scented the air deliciously.
They stooped and plucked handf uls of them.
They gathered roses, too, that were bloom
ing yet against the warm south end of the
house ; and they chattered and laughed like
children. When they sat in the sunlight
upon the low steps to arrange the flowers
they had broken, Bartner s conscience began
to prick him anew.
" You know," he said, " I can t stay here
always, as well as I should like to. I shall
have to leave presently; then your grand
father will discover that we have been de
ceiving him, and you can see how cruel
that will be."
"Mr. Bartna," answered Esmee, daintily
holding a rosebud up to her pretty nose,
122 THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE.
" Wen I awoke this morning an said my
prayers, I prayed to the good God that He
would give one happy Christmas day to my
gran f ather. He has answered my prayer ;
an He does not sen his gif s incomplete.
He will provide.
" Mr. Bartna, this morning I agreed to
take all responsibility on my shoulder , you
remember? Now, I place all that respon
sibility on the shoulder of the blessed Vir-
Bartner was distracted with admiration ;
whether for this beautiful and consoling
faith, or its charming votary, was not quite
clear to him.
Every now and then Monsieur Jean Ba
would call out, " Alcibiade, mon fils ! "
and Bartner would hasten to his side.
Sometimes the old man had forgotten what
he wanted to say. Once it was to ask if
the salad had been to his liking, or if he
would, perhaps, not have preferred the tur
key aux truffes.
" Alcibiade, mon fils ! " Again Bartner
amiably answered the summons. Monsieur
Jean Ba took the young man s hand affec
tionately in his, but limply, as children hold
hands. Bartner s closed firmly around it.
THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE. 123
" Alcibiade, I am going to take a little
nap now. If Robert McFarlane comes while
I am sleeping, with more talk of wanting to
buy Neg Severin, tell him I will sell none
of my slaves ; not the least little negrillon.
Drive him from the place with the shot
gun. Don t be afraid to use the shot-gun,
Alcibiade, when I am asleep, if he
Esmee and Bartner forgot that there was
such a thing as time, and that it was pass
ing. There were no more calls of "Al
cibiade, mon fils ! " As the sun dipped
lower and lower in the west, its light was
creeping, creeping up and illuming the still
body of Monsieur Jean Ba. It lighted his
waxen hands, folded so placidly in his lap ;
it touched his shrunken bosom. When it
reached his face, another brightness had
come there before it, the glory of a qu 1 ^
and peaceful death.
Bartner remained over
to add what assistanc
which kindly neighbo
In the early mo r
departure, he was
She was overco r
124 THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE.
could hardly hope to assuage, even with the
keen sympathy which he felt.
" And may I be permitted to ask, Ma
demoiselle, what will be your plans for the
" Oh," she moaned, " I cannot any longer
remain upon the ole plantation, which would
not be home without grandpere. I suppose
I shall go to live in New Orleans with my
tante Clementine." The last was spoken
in the depths of her handkerchief.
Bartner s heart bounded at this intelli
gence in a manner which he could not but
feel was one of unbecoming levity. He
pressed her disengaged hand warmly, and
The sun was again shining brightly, but
the morning was crisp and cool ; a thin
wafer of ice covered what had yesterday
ibeen pools of water in the road. Bartner
the saT^d his^oat about him closely. The
would, perhaps, steam cotton-gins sounded
key aux truffes. One or two shivering
" Alcibiade, mon J? field gathering what
amiably answered the eft on the dry, naked
Jean Ba took the youngorted with satisfac-
tionately in his, but limplyof-beats rang out
hands. Bartner s closed firi.
THE RETURN OF ALCIBIADE. 125
" Urge the horses," Bartner said ; " they
Ve had a good rest and we want to push on
" You right, suh. We done los a whole
blesse day, a plumb day."
" Why, so we have," said Bartner, " I
had n t thought of it."
A RUDE AWAKENING.
"TAKE de do an go! You year me?
Take de do ! "
Lolotte s brown eyes flamed. Her small
frame quivered. She stood with her back
turned to a meagre supper-table, as if to
guard it from the man who had just en
tered the cabin. She pointed toward the
door, to order him from the house.
" You mighty cross to-night, Lolotte.
You mus got up wid de wrong foot to s
mo nin . Hein, Veveste ? hein, Jacques,
w at you say? "
The two small urchins who sat at table
giggled in sympathy with their father s evi
dent good humor.
" I m wo out, me ! " the girl exclaimed,
desperately, as she let her arms fall limp at
her side. "Work, work! Fu w at? Fu
feed de lazies man in Natchitoches pa ish."
" Now, Lolotte, you think w at you sayin ,"
expostulated her father. " Sylveste Bordon
don ax nobody to feed - im."
A RUDE AWAKENING. 127
"Wen you brought a poun of suga in
de house?" his daughter retorted hotly, "or
a poun of coffee? Wen did you brought
a piece o meat home, you ? An Nonomme
all de time sick. Co n bread an po k, dat s
good f u Yeveste an me an Jacques ; but
Nonomme ? no ! "
She turned as if choking, and cut into
the round, soggy "pone" of corn bread
which was the main feature of the scanty
" Po li le Nonomme ; we mus fine some in
to break dat fevah. You want to kill a
chicken once a w ile fu Nonomme, Lolotte."
He calmly seated himself at the table.
" Did n I done put de las roostah in de
pot?" she cried with exasperation. "Now
you come axen me fu kill de hen ! Were
I goen to fine aigg to trade wid, w en de
hen be gone ? Is I got one picayune in de
house fu trade wid, me ? "
" Papa," piped the young Jacques, " w at
dat I yeard you drive in de yard, w ile go ? "
"Dat s it ! Wen Lolotte would n been
talken so fas , I could tole you bout dat job
I got fu to-morrow. Dat was Joe Duplan s
team of mule an wagon, wid t ree bale of
cotton, w at you yaird. I got to go soon in
128 A RUDE AWAKENING.
de mo nin wid dat load to de landin . An
a man mus eat w at got to work ; dat s
Lolotte s bare brown feet made no sound
upon the rough boards as she entered the
room where Nonomme lay sick and sleeping.
She lifted the coarse mosquito net from
about him, sat down in the clumsy chair by
the bedside, and began gently to fan the
Dusk was falling rapidly, as it does in
the South. Lolotte s eyes grew round and
big, as she watched the moon creep up from
branch to branch of the moss-draped live-
oak just outside her window. Presently the
weary girl slept as profoundly as Nonomme.
A little dog sneaked into the room, and so
cially licked her bare feet. The touch, moist
and warm, awakened Lolotte.
The cabin was dark and quiet. Nonomme
was crying softly, because the mosquitoes
were biting him. In the room beyond, old
Sylveste and the others slept. When Lo
lotte had quieted the child, she went out
side to get a pail of cool, fresh water at the
cistern. Then she crept into bed beside
Nonomme, who slept again.
Lolotte s dreams that night pictured her
A RUDE AWAKENING. 129
father returning from work, and bringing
luscious oranges home in his pocket for the
When at the very break of day she heard
him astir in his room, a certain comfort
stole into her heart. She lay and listened
to the faint noises of his preparations to go
out. When he had quitted the house, she
waited to hear him drive the wagon from
She waited long, but heard no sound of
horse s tread or wagon-wheel. Anxious, she
went to the cabin door and looked out. The
big mules were still where they had been
fastened the night before. The wagon was
Her heart sank. She looked quickly
along the low rafters supporting the roof of
the narrow porch to where her father s fish
ing pole and pail always hung. Both were
u T ain no use, t ain no use," she said,
as she turned into the house with a look of
something like anguish in her eyes.
When the spare breakfast was eaten and
the dishes cleared away, Lolotte turned with
resolute mien to the two little brothers.
" Yeveste," she said to the older, "go see
130 A RUDE AWAKENING.
if dey got co n in dat wagon fu feed dem
" Yes, dey got co n. Papa done feed em,
fur I see de co n-cob in de trough, me."
" Den you goen he p me hitch dem mule,
to de wagon. Jacques, go down de lane
an ax Aunt Minty if she come set wid No-
nomme w ile I go drive dem mule to de
Lolotte had evidently determined to un
dertake her father s work. Nothing could
dissuade her; neither the children s aston
ishment nor Aunt Minty s scathing disap
proval. The fat black negress came laboring
into the yard just as Lolotte mounted upon
" Git down f om dah, chile ! Is you plumb
crazy ? " she exclaimed.
" No, I ain t crazy ; I m hungry, Aunt
Minty. We all hungry. Somebody got
fur work in dis fam ly."
" Dat ain t no work fur a gal w at ain t
bar seventeen year ole ; drivin Marse Du-
plan s mules ! Wat I gwine tell yo pa? "
" Fu me, you kin tell im w at you want.
But you watch Nonomme. I done cook his
rice an set it side."
" Don t you bodda," replied Aunt Minty ;
A RUDE AWAKENING. 131
" I got somepin heah fur my boy. I gwine
ten to him."
Lolotte had seen Aunt Minty put some
thing out of sight when she came up, and
made her produce it. It was a heavy fowl.
" Sence w en you start raisin Brahma
chicken , you?" Lolotte asked mistrustfully.
" My, but you is a cu ious somebody !
Ev ything w at got fedders on its laigs is
Brahma chicken wid you. Dis heah ole
hen " -
" All de same, you don t got fur give dat
chicken to eat to Nonomme. You don t got
fur cook im in my house."
Aunt Minty, unheeding, turned to the
house with blustering inquiry for her boy,
while Lolotte drove away with great clatter.
She knew, notwithstanding her injunction,
that the chicken would be cooked and eaten.
Maybe she herself would partake of it when
she came back, if hunger drove her too
"Nax thing I m goen be one rogue,"
she muttered ; and the tears gathered and
fell one by one upon her cheeks.
" It do look like one Brahma, Aunt
Mint," remarked the small and weazened
Jacques, as he watched the woman picking
the lusty fowl.
132 A RUDE AWAKENING.
" How ole is you? " was her quiet retort.
" I don know, me."
" Den if you don t know dat much, you
betta keep yo mouf shet, boy."
Then silence fell, but for a monotonous
chant which the woman droned as she
worked. Jacques opened his lips once more.
" It do look like one o Ma me Duplan
Brahma, Aunt Mint."
"Yonda, whar I come f om, befo de
" Ole Kaintuck, Aunt Mint? "
" Ole Kaintuck."
" Dat ain t one country like dis yere,
"You mighty right, chile, dat ain t no
sech kentry as dis heah. Yonda, in Kain
tuck, w en boys says de word Brahma
chicken, we takes an gags em, an ties dar
han s behines em, an fo ces em ter stan up
watchin folks settin down eatin chicken
Jacques passed the back of his hand across
his mouth ; but lest the act should not place
sufficient seal upon it, he prudently stole
away to go and sit beside Nonomme, and
wait there as patiently as he could the com
A RUDE AWAKENING. 133
And what a treat it was ! The luscious
soup, a great pot of it, golden yellow,
thickened with the flaky rice that Lolotte
had set carefully on the shelf. Each mouth
ful of it seemed to carry fresh blood into
the veins and a new brightness into the eyes
of the hungry children who ate of it.
And that was not all. The day brought
abundance with it. Their father came home
with glistening perch and trout that Aunt
Minty broiled deliciously over glowing em
bers, and basted with the rich chicken fat.
" You see," explained old Sylveste, " w en
I git up to s mo nin an see it was cloudy,
I say to me, . Sylveste, w en you go wid
dat cotton, rememba you got no tarpaulin.
Maybe it rain, an de cotton was spoil. Betta
you go yonda to Lafirme Lake, w ere de
trout was bitin fas er an mosquito, an so
you git a good mess fur de chil en. Lolotte
w at she goen do yonda ? You ought
stop Lolotte, Aunt Minty, w en you see w at
she was want to do."
" Did n I try to stop er ? Did n I ax er,
4 W at I gwine tell yo pa ? An she low,
4 Tell im to go hang hisse f, de triflind ole
rapscallion ! I s de one w at s runnin dis
134 A RUDE AWAKENING.
" Dat don soun like Lolotte, Aunt Minty ;
you mus yaird er crooked ; hein, No-
nomme ? "
The quizzical look in his good-natured
features was irresistible. Nonomme fairly
shook with merriment.
" My head feel so good," he declared. " I
wish Lolotte would come, so I could tole
er." And he turned in his bed to look
down the long, dusty lane, with the hope of
seeing her appear as he had watched her go,
sitting on one of the cotton bales and guid
ing the mules.
But no one came all through the hot
morning. Only at noon a broad-shouldered
young negro appeared in view riding through
the dust. When he had dismounted at the
cabin door, he stood leaning a shoulder lazily
against the jamb.
" Well, heah you is," he grumbled, ad
dressing Sylveste with no mark of respect.
"Heah you is, settin down like comp ny,
an Marse Joe yonda sont me see if you was
" Joe Duplan boun to have his joke,
him," said Sylveste, smiling uneasily.
" Maybe it look like a joke to you, but
t aint no joke to him, man, to have one o
A RUDE AWAKENING. 135
his wagons smoshed to kindlin , an his bes
team tearin t rough de country. You don t
want to let im lay han s on you, joke o no
" Malediction ! " howled Sylveste, as he
staggered to his feet. He stood for one in
stant irresolute ; then he lurched past the
man and ran wildly down the lane. He
might have taken the horse that was there,
but he went tottering on afoot, a frightened
look in his eyes, as if his soul gazed upon
an inward picture that was horrible.
The road to the landing was little used.
As Sylveste went he could readily trace the
marks of Lolotte s wagon-wheels. For some
distance they went straight along the road.
Then they made a track as if a madman
had directed their course, over stump and
hillock, tearing the bushes and barking the
trees on either side.
At each new turn Sylveste expected to find
Lolotte stretched senseless upon the ground,
but, there was never a sign of her.
At last he reached the landing, which was
a dreary spot, slanting down to the river
and partly cleared to afford room for what
desultory freight might be left there from
time to time. There were the wagon-tracks,
136 A RUDE AWAKENING.
clean down to the river s edge and partly in
the water, where they made a sharp and
senseless turn. But Sylveste found no trace
of his girl.
" Lolotte ! " the old man cried out into
the stillness. " Lolotte, mafille, Lolotte ! "
But no answer came ; no sound but the echo
of his own voice, and the soft splash of the
red water that lapped his feet.
He looked down at it, sick with anguish
Lolotte had disappeared as completely as
if the earth had opened and swallowed her.
After a few days it became the common be
lief that the girl had been drowned. It was
thought that she must have been hurled
from the wagon into the water during the
sharp turn that the wheel-tracks indicated,
and carried away by the rapid current.
During the days of search, old Sylveste s
excitement kept him up. When it was over,
an apathetic despair seemed to settle upon
Madame Duplan, moved by sympathy,
had taken the little four-year-old Nonomme
to the plantation Les Cheniers, where the
child was awed by the beauty and comfort
of things that surrounded him there. He
A RUDE AWAKENING. 137
thought always that Lolotte would come
back, and watched for her every day; for
they did not tell him the sad tidings of her
The other two boys were placed in the
temporary care of Aunt Minty ; and old Syl-
veste roamed like a persecuted being through
the country. He who had been a type of
indolent content and repose had changed to
a restless spirit.
When he thought to eat, it was in some
humble negro cabin that he stopped to ask
for food, which was never denied him. His
grief had clothed him with a dignity that
One morning very early he appeared be
fore the planter with a disheveled and hunted
" M sieur Duplan," he said, holding his
hat in his hand and looking away into va
cancy, "I been try ev thing. I been "try
settin down still on de sto gall ry. I been
walk, I been run ; t ain no use. Dey got
al ays some in w at push me. I go fishin ,
an it s some in w at push me worser an
ever. By gracious ! ^M sieur Duplan, gi me
some work ! "
The planter gave him at once a plow in
138 A RUDE AWAKENING.
hand, and no plow on the whole plantation
dug so deep as that one, nor so fast. Syl-
veste was the first in the field, as he was the
last one there. From dawn to nightfall he
worked, and after, till his limbs refused to
do his bidding.
People came to wonder, and the negroes
began to whisper hints of demoniacal posses
When Mr. Duplan gave careful thought
to the subject of Lolotte s mysterious disap
pearance, an idea came to him. But so
fearful was he to arouse false hopes in the
breasts of those who grieved for the girl that
to no one did he impart his suspicions save
to his wife. It was on the eve of a business
trip to New Orleans that he told her what
he thought, or what he hoped rather.
Upon his return, which happened not
many days later, he went out to where old
Sylveste was toiling in the field with fren
"Sylveste," said the planter, quietly, when
he had stood a moment watching the man at
work, " have you given up all hope of hear
ing from your daughter ? "
" I don know, me ; I don know. Le me
work, M sieur Duplan."
A RUDE AWAKENING. 139
" For my part, I believe the child is
" You b lieve dat, you ? " His rugged
face was pitiful in its imploring lines.
" I know it," Mr. Duplan muttered, as
calmly as he could. " Hold up ! Steady
yourself, man ! Come ; come with me to the
house. There is some one there who knows
it, too ; some one who has seen her."
The room into which the planter led the
old man was big, cool, beautiful, and sweet
with the delicate odor of flowers. It was
shady, too, for the shutters were half closed ;
but not so darkened but Sylveste could at
once see Lolotte, seated in a big wicker
She was almost as white as the gown she
wore. Her neatly shod feet rested upon a
cushion, and her black hair, that had been
closely cut, was beginning to make little
rings about her temples.
" Aie ! " he cried sharply, at sight of her,
grasping his seamed throat as he did so.
Then he laughed like a madman, and then
He only sobbed, kneeling upon the floor
beside her, kissing her knees and her hands,
that sought his. Little Nonomme was close
140 A RUDE AWAKENING.
to her, with a health flush creeping into his
cheek. Veveste and Jacques were there, and
rather awed by the mystery and grandeur of
" Were bouts you find her, M sieur Du-
plan?" Sylveste asked, when the first flush
of his joy had spent itself, and he was wiping
his eyes with his rough cotton shirt sleeve.
" M sieur Duplan find me way yonda to
de city, papa, in de hospital," spoke Lolotte,
before the planter could steady his voice to
reply. " I did n know who ev ybody was,
me. I did n know me, myse f , tell I tu n
roun one day an see M sieur Duplan, w at
stan en dere."
" You was boun to know M sieur Duplan,
Lolotte," laughed Sylveste, like a child.
" Yes, an I know right way how dem
mule was git frighten w en de boat w istle
fu stop, an pitch me plumb on de groun .
An I rememba it was one mulatresse w at
call herse f one chernbamed, all de time aside
" You must not talk too much, Lolotte,"
interposed Madame Duplan, coming to place
her hand with gentle solicitude upon the
girl s forehead, and to feel how her pulse
A RUDE AWAKENING. 141
Then to save the child further effort of
speech, she herself related how the boat had
stopped at this lonely landing to take on a
load of cotton-seed. Lolotte had been found
stretched insensible by the river, fallen ap
parently from the clouds, and had been taken
The boat had changed its course into
other waters after that trip, and had not re
turned to Duplan s Landing. Those who
had tended Lolotte and left her at the hos
pital supposed, no doubt, that she would
make known her identity in time, and they
had troubled themselves no further about
" An dah you is ! " almost shouted aunt
Minty, whose black face gleamed in the
doorway ; " dah you is, settin down, lookin
jis like w ite folks ! "
" Ain t I always was w ite folks, Aunt
Mint ? " smiled Lolotte, feebly.
" G long, chile. You knows me. I don
mean no harm."
" And now, Sylveste," said Mr. Duplan,
as he rose and started to walk the floor, with
hands in his pockets, "listen to me. It will
be a long ^ime before Lolotte is strong again.
Aunt Minty is going to look after things for
142 A RUDE AWAKENING.
you till the child is fully recovered. But
what I want to say is this: I shall trust
these children into your hands once more,
and I want you never to forget again that
you are their father do you hear ? that
you are a man ! "
Old Sylveste stood with his hand in Lo-
lotte s, who rubbed it lovingly against her
"By gracious! M sieur Duplan," he an
swered, " w en God want to he p me, I m
goen try my bes ! "
THE BENITOUS SLAVE.
OLD Uncle Oswald believed he belonged
to the Benitous, and there was no getting
the notion out of his head. Monsieur tried
every way, for there was no sense in it.
Why, it must have been fifty years since
the Benitous owned him. He had belonged
to others since, and had later been freed.
Beside, there was not a Benitou left in the
parish now, except one rather delicate wo
man, who lived with her little daughter in
a corner of Natchitoches town, and con
structed " fashionable millinery." The
family had dispersed, and almost vanished,
and the plantation as well had lost its iden
But that made no difference to Uncle Os
wald. He was always running away from
Monsieur who kept him out of pure kind
ness and trying to get back to those Beni
More than that, he was constantly getting
injured in such attempts. Once he fell into
144 THE BEN IT US SLAVE.
the bayou and was nearly drowned. Again
he barely escaped being run down by an en
gine. But another time, when he had been
lost two days, and finally discovered in an
unconscious and half-dead condition in the
woods, Monsieur and Doctor Bonfils reluc
tantly decided that it was time to " do some
thing " with the old man.
So, one sunny spring morning, Monsieur
took Uncle Oswald in the buggy, and drove
over to Natchitoches with him, intending to
take the evening train for the institution in
which the poor creature was to be cared for.
It was quite early in the afternoon when
they reached town, and Monsieur found him
self with several hours to dispose of before
train-time. He tied his horses in front of
the hotel the quaintest old stuccoed house,
too absurdly unlike a " hotel " for anything
and entered. But he left Uncle Oswald
seated upon a shaded bench just within the
There were people occasionally coming in
and going out ; but no one took the smallest
notice of the old negro drowsing over the
cane that he held between his knees. The
sight was common in Natchitoches.
One who passed in was a little girl about
THE BENITOUS SLAVE. 145
twelve, with dark, kind eyes, and daintily
carrying a parcel. She was dressed in blue
calico, and wore a stiff white sun-bonnet, ex
tinguisher fashion, over her brown curls.
Just as she passed Uncle Oswald again,
on her way out, the old man, half asleep, let
fall his cane. She picked it up and handed
it back to him, as any nice child would have
" Oh, thankee, thankee, missy," stam
mered Uncle Oswald, all confused at being
waited upon by this little lady. " You is a
putty li le gal. Wat s yo name, honey ? "
* My name s Susanne ; Susanne Beni-
tou," replied the girl.
Instantly the old negro stumbled to his
feet. Without a moment s hesitancy he fol
lowed the little one out through the gate,
down the street, and around the corner.
It was an hour later that Monsieur, after
a distracted search, found him standing upon
the gallery of the tiny house in which Ma
dame Beriitou kept " fashionable millinery."
Mother and daughter were sorely per
plexed to comprehend the intentions of the
venerable servitor, who stood, hat in hand,
persistently awaiting their orders.
Monsieur understood and appreciated the
146 THE BE N IT US SLAVE.
situation at once, and he has prevailed upon
Madame Benitou to accept the gratuitous
services of Uncle Oswald for the sake of the
old darky s own safety and happiness.
Uncle Oswald never tries to run away
now. He chops wood and hauls water. He
cheerfully and faithfully bears the parcels
that Susanne used to carry ; and makes an
excellent cup of black coffee.
I met the old man the other day in Natch-
itoches, contentedly stumbling down St.
Denis street with a basket of figs that some
one was sending to his mistress. I asked
him his name.
" My name s Oswal , Madam ; Oswal
dat s my name. I b longs to de Benitous,"
and some one told me his story then.
DESIREE S BABY.
As the day was pleasant, Madame Val
monde drove over to L Abri to see Desiree
and the baby.
It made her laugh to think of De*siree
with a baby. Why, it seemed but yester
day that Desiree was little more than a baby
herself ; when Monsieur in riding through
the gateway of Valmonde* had found her
lying asleep in the shadow of the big stone
The little one awoke in his arms and
began to cry for "Dada." That was as
much as she could do or say. Some people
thought she might have strayed there of her
own accord, for she was of the toddling age.
The prevailing belief was that she had been
purposely left by a party of Texans, whose
canvas-covered wagon, late in the day, had
crossed the ferry that Coton Mais kept, just
below the plantation. In time Madame
Valmonde abandoned every speculation but
the one that Desiree had been sent to her by
148 DESIREE S BABY.
a beneficent Providence to be the child of
her affection, seeing that she was without
child of the flesh. For the girl grew to be
beautiful and gentle, affectionate and sin
cere, the idol of Valmonde.
It was no wonder, when she stood one day
against the stone pillar in whose shadow she
had lain asleep, eighteen years before, that
Armand Aubigny riding by and seeing her
there, had fallen in love with her. That was
the way all the Aubignys fell in love, as if
struck by a pistol shot. The wonder was
that he had not loved her before ; for he had
known her since his father brought him
home from Paris, a boy of eight, after his
mother died there. The passion that awoke
in him that day, when he saw her at the
gate, swept along like an avalanche, or like
a prairie fire, or like anything that drives
headlong over all obstacles.
Monsieur Valmonde grew practical and
wanted things well considered : that is, the
girl s obscure origin. Armand looked into
her eyes and did not care. He was reminded
that she was nameless. What did it matter
about a name when he could give her one of
the oldest and proudest in Louisiana ? He
ordered the corbeille from Paris, and con-
DESIREE S BABY. 149
tained himself with what patience he could
until it arrived; then they were married.
Madame Valmonde had not seen De*sire*e
and the baby for four weeks. When she
reached L Abri she shuddered at the first
sight of it, as she always did. It was a sad
looking place, which for many years had not
known the gentle presence of a mistress, old
Monsieur Aubigny having married and buried
his wife in France, and she having loved her
own land too well ever to leave it. The
roof came down steep and black like a cowl,
reaching out beyond the wide galleries that
encircled the yellow stuccoed house. Big,
solemn oaks grew close to it, and their thick-
leaved, far-reaching branches shadowed it
like a pall. Young Aubigny s rule was a
strict one, too, and under it his negroes had
forgotten how to be gay, as they had been
during the old master s easy-going and in
The young mother was recovering slowly,
and lay full length, in her soft white mus
lins and laces, upon a couch. The baby was
beside her, upon her arm, where he had
fallen asleep, at her breast. The yellow
nurse woman sat beside a window fanning
150 DESIREE S BABY.
Madame Valmonde bent her portly figure
over Desiree and kissed her, holding her an
instant tenderly in her arms. Then she
turned to the child.
" This is not the baby ! " she exclaimed,
in startled tones. French was the language
spoken at Valmonde in those days.
"I knew you would be astonished,"
laughed Desiree, " at the way he has grown.
The little cochon de lait ! Look at his
legs, mamma, and his hands and finger
nails, real finger-nails. Zandrine had to
cut them this morning. Is n t it true, Zan
The woman bowed her turbaned head
majestically, " Mais si, Madame."
" And the way he cries," went on Desiree,
" is deafening. Armand heard him the other
day as far away as La Blanche s cabin."
Madame Valmonde had never removed
her eyes from the child. She lifted it and
walked with it over to the window that
was lightest. She scanned the baby nar
rowly, then looked as searchingly at Zan
drine, whose face was turned to gaze across
" Yes, the child has grown, has changed ; "
said Madame Valmonde, slowly, as she re-
DESIREE S BABY. 151
placed it beside its mother. " What does
Desiree s face became suffused with a glow
that was happiness itself.
" Oh, Armand is the proudest father in
the parish, I believe, chiefly because it is
a boy, to bear his name ; though he says
not, that he would have loved a girl as
well. But I know it is n t true. I know he
says that to please me. And mamma," she
added, drawing Madame Valmonde s head
down to her, and speaking in a whisper,
" he has n t punished one of them not one
of them since baby is born. Even Ne-
grillon, who pretended to have burnt his leg
that he might rest from work he only
laughed, and said Negrillon was a great
scamp. Oh, mamma, I m so happy ; it
What Desiree said was true. Marriage,
and later the birth of his son, had softened
Armand Aubigny s imperious and exacting
nature greatly. This was what made the
gentle Desiree so happy, for she loved him
desperately. When he frowned she trembled,
but loved him. When he smiled, she asked
no greater blessing of God. But Armand s
dark, handsome face had not often been
152 DESIREE S BABY.
disfigured by frowns since the day he fell in
love with her.
When the baby was about three months
old, Desiree awoke one day to the conviction
that there was something in the air mena
cing her peace. It was at first too subtle to
grasp. It had only been a disquieting sug
gestion ; an air of mystery among the blacks ;
unexpected visits from far-off neighbors who
could hardly account for their coming. Then
a strange, an awful change in her husband s
manner, which she dared not ask him to ex
plain. When he spoke to her, it was with
averted eyes, from which the old love-light
seemed to have gone out. He absented him
self from home ; and when there, avoided
her presence and that of her child, with
out excuse. And the very spirit of Satan
seemed suddenly to take hold of him in his
dealings with the slaves. Desiree was mis
erable enough to die.
She sat in her room, one hot afternoon, in
her peignoir, listlessly drawing through her
fingers the strands of her long, silky brown
hair that hung about her shoulders. The
baby, half naked, lay asleep upon her own
great mahogany bed, that was like a sump
tuous throne, with its satin-lined half -canopy.
DESIREE S BABY. 153
One of La Blanche s little quadroon boys
half naked too stood fanning the child
slowly with a fan of peacock feathers. De-
siree s eyes had been fixed absently and sadly
upon the baby, while she was striving to
penetrate the threatening mist that she felt
closing about her. She looked from her
child to the boy who stood beside him, and
back again ; over and over. " Ah ! " It
was a cry that she could not help ; which
she was not conscious of having uttered.
The blood turned like ice in her veins,
and a clammy moisture gathered upon her
She tried to speak to the little quadroon
boy ; but no sound would come, at first.
When he heard his name uttered, he looked
up, and his mistress was pointing to the door.
He laid aside the great, soft fan, and obedi
ently stole away, over the polished floor, on
his bare tiptoes.
She stayed motionless, with gaze riveted
upon her child, and her face the picture of
Presently her husband entered the room,
and without noticing her, went to a table
and began to search among some papers
which covered it.
154 DESIRE&S BABY.
" Armand," she called to him, in a voice
which must have stabbed him, if he was
human. But he did not notice. " Ar
mand," she said again. Then she rose and
tottered towards him. " Armand," she
panted once more, clutching his arm, " look
at our child. What does it mean? tell
He coldly but gently loosened her fingers
from about his arm and thrust the hand
away from him. u Tell me what it means! "
she cried despairingly.
"It means," he answered lightly, "that
the child is not white ; it means that you are
A quick conception of all that this accu
sation meant for her nerved her with un
wonted courage to deny it. " It is a lie ; it
is not true, I am white ! Look at my hair,
it is brown ; and my eyes are gray, Armand,
you know they are gray. And my skin is
fair," seizing his wrist. " Look at my hand ;
whiter than yours, Armand," she laughed
" As white as La Blanche s," he returned
cruelly; and went away leaving her alone
with their child.
When she could hold a pen in her hand,
DESIREWS BABY. 155
she sent a despairing letter to Madame Val-
" My mother, they tell me I am not white.
Armand has told me I am not white. For
God s sake tell them it is not true. You
must know it is not true. I shall die. I
must die. I cannot be so unhappy, and
The answer that came was as brief :
" My own Desiree : Come home to Val-
monde ; back to your mother who loves you.
Come with your child."
When the letter reached Desiree she went
with it to her husband s study, and laid it
open upon the desk before which he sat.
She was like a stone image : silent, white,
motionless after she placed it there.
In silence he ran his cold eyes over the
written words. He said nothing. " Shall
I go, Armand ? " she asked in tones sharp
with agonized suspense.
" Yes, go."
" Do you want me to go ?"
" Yes, I want you to go."
He thought Almighty God had dealt cruelly
and unjustly with him ; and felt, somehow,
that he was paying Him back in kind when
he stabbed thus into his wife s soul. More-
156 DESIRE E S BABY.
over he no longer loved her, because of the
unconscious injury she had brought upon his
home and his name.
She turned away like one stunned by a
blow, and walked slowly towards the door,
hoping he would call her back.
" Good-by, Armand," she moaned.
He did not answer her. That was his last
blow at fate.
Desiree went in search of her child. Zan-
drine was pacing the sombre gallery with it.
She took the little one from the nurse s arms
with no word of explanation, and descend
ing the steps, walked away, under the live-
It was an October afternoon ; the sun
was just sinking. Out in the still fields the
negroes were picking cotton.
Desiree had not changed the thin .white
garment nor the slippers which she wore.
Her hair was uncovered and the sun s rays
brought a golden gleam from its brown
meshes. She did not take the broad, beaten
road which led to the far-off plantation of
Valmonde. She walked across a deserted
field, where the stubble bruised her tender
feet, so delicately shod, and tore her thin
gown to shreds.
DESIREE S BABY. 157
She disappeared among the reeds and wil
lows that grew thick along the banks of the
deep, sluggish bayou ; and she did not come
Some weeks later there was a curious scene
enacted at L Abri. In the centre of the
smoothly swept back yard was a great bon
fire. Armand Aubigny sat in the wide hall
way that commanded a view of the specta
cle ; and it was he who dealt out to a half
dozen negroes the material which kept this
A graceful cradle of willow, with all its
dainty furbishings, was laid upon the pyre,
which had already been fed with the rich
ness of a priceless layette. Then there were
silk gowns, and velvet and satin ones added
to these ; laces, too, and embroideries ; bon
nets and gloves ; for the corbeille had been
of rare quality.
The last thing to go was a tiny bundle of
letters ; innocent little scribblings that De-
siree had sent to him during the days of
their espousal. There was the remnant of
one back in the drawer from which he took
them. But it was not Desiree s ; it was
part of an old letter from his mother to his
158 DESIREE S BABY.
father. He read it. She was thanking God
for the blessing of her husband s love :
" But, above all," she wrote, " night and
day, I thank the good God for having so
arranged our lives that our dear Armand
will never know that his mother, who adores
him, belongs to the race that is cursed with
the brand of slavery."
A TURKEY HUNT.
THREE of Madame s finest bronze turkeys
were missing from the brood. It was near-
ing Christmas, and that was the reason,
perhaps, that even Monsieur grew agitated
when the discovery was made. The news
was brought to the house by Severin s boy,
who had seen the troop at noon a half mile
up the bayou three short. Others reported
the deficiency as even greater. So, at about
two in the afternoon, though a cold drizzle
had begun to fall, popular feeling in the
matter was so strong that all the household
forces turned out to search for the missing
Alice, the housemaid, went down the river,
and Polisson, the yard -boy, went up the
bayou. Others crossed the fields, and Arte-
mise was rather vaguely instructed to "go
Artemise is in some respects an extraordi
nary person. In age she is anywhere between
ten and fifteen, with a head not unlike in
158 DESIRE&S BABY.
father. He read it. She was thanking God
for the blessing of her husband s love :
" But, above all," she wrote, " night and
day, I thank the good God for having so
arranged our lives that our dear Armand
will never know that his mother, who adores
him, belongs to the race that is cursed with
the brand of slavery."
habitually uses to indicate a locality,
she meant was that she slept in the hall.
Again, another time, she came with an
armful of wood, and having deposited it
upon the hearth, turned to stare fixedly at
me, with folded hands.
" Did Madame send you to build a fire,
Artemise?" I hastened to ask, feeling un
comfortable under the look.
" Ya, >m."
A TURKEY HUNT.
THEEE of Madame s finest bronze turkeys
were missing from the brood. It was near-
ing Christmas, and that was the reason,
perhaps, that even Monsieur grew agitated
when the discovery was made. The news
was brought to the house by Severin s boy,
who had seen the troop at noon a half mile
up the bayou three short. Others reported
the deficiency as even greater. So, at about
two in the afternoon, though a cold drizzle
had begun to fall, popular feeling in the
matter was so strong that all the household
f nance that she possibly had information to
give, if any inducement were offered her in
the shape of a question.
"Have you found the turkeys, Arte-
mise ? " Madame hastened to ask.
" Ya, m."
" You Artemise ! " shouted Aunt Flo-
rindy, the cook, who was passing through
the hall with a batch of newly baked light
bread. " She s a-lyin , mist ess, if dey ever
162 A TURKEY HUNT.
was ! You foun dem turkeys ? " turning
upon the child. " Whar was you at, de
whole blesse time? Warn t you stan in
plank up agin de back o de hen- ous ?
Never budged a inch ? Don t jaw me down,
gal ; don t jaw me ! " Artemise was only gaz
ing at Aunt Florin dy with unruffled calm.
" I warn t gwine tell on er, but arter dat
untroof, I boun to."
" Let her alone, Aunt Florindy," Madame
interfered. "Where are the turkeys, Ar
temise ? "
" Yon a," she simply articulated, bringing
the pump-handle motion of her arm into
" Where yonder ? " Madame demanded,
a little impatiently.
" In uh hen- ous !"
Sure enough ! The three missing turkeys
had been accidentally locked up in the
morning when the chickens were fed.
Artemise, for some unknown reason, had
hidden herself during the search behind the
hen-house, and had heard their muffled
MADAME CELESTIN S DIVORCE.
MADAME CELESTIN always wore a neat
and snugly fitting calico wrapper when she
went out in the morning to sweep her small
gallery. Lawyer Paxton thought she looked
very pretty in the gray one that was made
with a graceful Watteau fold at the back :
and with which she invariably wore a bow of
pink ribbon at the throat. She was always
sweeping her gallery when lawyer Paxton
passed by in the morning on his way to his
office in St. Denis Street.
Sometimes he stopped and leaned over
the fence to say good-morning at his ease ;
to criticise or admire her rosebushes ; or,
when he had time enough, to hear what she
had to say. Madame Celestin usually had
a good deal to say. She would gather up
the train of her calico wrapper in one hand,
and balancing the broom gracefully in the
other, would go tripping down to where the
lawyer leaned, as comfortably as he could,
over her picket fence.
164 MADAME CELESTIN S DIVORCE.
Of course she had talked to him of her
troubles. Every one knew Madame Celes-
tin s troubles.
" Really, madame," he told her once, in his
deliberate, calculating, lawyer - tone, " it s
more than human nature woman s nature
should be called upon to endure. Here
you are, working your fingers off " she
glanced down at two rosy finger-tips that
showed through the rents in her baggy doe
skin gloves " taking in sewing ; giving
music lessons ; doing God knows what in
the way of manual labor to support yourself
and those two little ones " Madame Ce-
lestin s pretty face beamed with satisfaction
at this enumeration of her trials.
" You right, Judge. Not a picayune, not
one, not one, have I lay my eyes on in the
pas fo months that I can say Celestin give
it to me or sen it to me."
" The scoundrel !" muttered lawyer Pax-
ton in his beard.
" An pourtant" she resumed, " they say
he s making money down roun Alexandria
w en he wants to work."
" I dare say you have n t seen him for
months ? " suggested the lawyer.
" It s good six month since I see a sight
of Celestin," she admitted.
MADAME CELESTIN S DIVORCE. 165
" That s it, that s what I say ; he has
practically deserted you; fails to support
you. It wouldn t surprise me a bit to learn
that he has ill treated you."
" Well, you know, Judge," with an eva
sive cough, " a man that drinks w at can
you expec ? An if you would know the
promises he has made me ! Ah, if I had as
many dolla as I had promise from Celestin,
I would n have to work,Je vous garantis."
" And in my opinion, madame, you would
be a foolish woman to endure it longer,
when the divorce court is there to offer you
" You spoke about that bef o , Judge ; I m
goin think about that divo ce. I believe
Madame Celestin thought about the di
vorce and talked about it, too ; and lawyer
Paxton grew deeply interested in the theme.
" You know, about that divo ce, Judge,"
Madame Celestin was waiting for him that
morning, " I been talking to my family an
my f rien s, an it s me that tells you, they all
plumb agains that divo ce."
" Certainly, to be sure ; that s to be
expected, madame, in this community of
Creoles. I warned you that you would
166 MADAME CELESTIN S DIVORCE.
meet with opposition, and would have to
face it and brave it."
"Oh, don t fear, I m going to face it!
Maman says it s a disgrace like it s neva
been in the family. But it s good for Ma
man to talk, her. Wat trouble she ever
had ? She says I mus go by all means con
sult with Pere Ducheron it s my confes
sor, you undastan Well, 1 11 go, Judge,
to please Maman. But all the confessor in
the worl ent goin make me put up with
that conduc of Celestin any longa."
A day or two later, she was there waiting
for him again. " You know, Judge, about
that divo ce."
"Yes, yes," responded the lawyer, well
pleased to trace a new determination in her
brown eyes and in the curves of her pretty
mouth. " I suppose you saw Pere Duche
ron and had to brave it out with him, too."
" Oh, fo that, a perfec sermon, I assho
you. A talk of giving scandal an bad ex
ample that I thought would neva en ! He
says, fo him, he wash his hands ; I mus
go see the bishop."
" You won t let the bishop dissuade you,
I trust," stammered the lawyer more anx
iously than he could well understand.
MADAME CELESTIN S DIVORCE. 167
" You don t know me yet, Judge,"
laughed Madame Celestin with a turn of
the head and a flirt of the broom which in
dicated that the interview was at an end.
" Well, Madame Celestin ! And the
bishop ! " Lawyer Paxton was standing
there holding to a couple of the shaky
pickets. She had not seen him. " Oh, it s
you, Judge ? " and she hastened towards
him with an empressement that could not
but have been flattering.
"Yes, I saw Monseigneur," she began.
The lawyer had already gathered from her
expressive countenance that she had not
wavered in her determination. "Ah, he s
a eloquent man. It s not a mo eloquent
man in Natchitoches parish. I was fo ced
to cry, the way he talked to me about my
troubles ; how he undastan s them, an feels
for me. It would move even you, Judge,
to hear how he talk about that step I want
to take ; its danga, its temptation. How
it is the duty of a Catholic to stan every
thing till the las extreme. An that life of
retirement an self-denial I would have to
lead, he tole me all that."
" But he has n t turned you from your
resolve, I see," laughed the lawyer compla
168 MADAME CELESTIWS DIVORCE.
"For that, no," she returned emphati
cally. "The bishop don t know w at it is
to be married to a man like Celestin, an
have to endu that conduc like I have to
endu it. The Pope himse f can t make me
stan that any longer, if you say I got the
right in the law to sen Celestin sailing/
A noticeable change had come over lawyer
Paxton. He discarded his work-day coat
and began to wear his Sunday one to the
office. He grew solicitous as to the shine
of his boots, his collar, and the set of his
tie. He brushed and trimmed his whiskers
with a care that had not before been appar
ent. Then he fell into a stupid habit of
dreaming as he walked the streets of the
old town. It would be very good to take
unto himself a wife, he dreamed. And he
could dream of no other than pretty Ma
dame Celestin filling that sweet and sacred
office as she filled his thoughts, now. Old
Natchitoches would not hold them comfort
ably, perhaps ; but the world was surely
wide enough to live in, outside of Natchi
His heart beat in a strangely irregular
manner as he neared Madame Celestin s
house one morning, and discovered her be-
MADAME CELESTIN S DIVORCE. 169
hind the rosebushes, as usual plying her
broom. She had finished the gallery and
steps and was sweeping the little brick walk
along the edge of the violet border.
" Good-morning, Madame Celestin."
" Ah, it s you, Judge ? Good-morning."
He waited. She seemed to be doing the
same. Then she ventured, with some hesi
tancy, "You know, Judge, about that di-
vo ce. I been thinking, I reckon you
betta neva mine about that divo ce." She
was making deep rings in the palm of her
gloved hand with the end of the broom-
handle, and looking at them critically. Her
face seemed to the lawyer to be unusually
rosy ; but maybe it was only the reflection
of the pink bow at the throat. " Yes, I
reckon you need n mine. You see, Judge,
Celestin came home las night. An he s
promise me on his word an honor he s going
to turn ova a new leaf."
LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU.
UPON the pleasant veranda of Pere An-
toine s cottage, that adjoined the church, a
young girl had long been seated, awaiting
his return. It was the eve of Easter Sun
day, and since early afternoon the priest had
been engaged in hearing the confessions of
those who wished to make their Easters
the following day. The girl did not seem
impatient at his delay ; on the contrary, it
was very restful to her to lie back in the
big chair she had found there, and peep
through the thick curtain of vines at the
people who occasionally passed along the
She was slender, with a frailness that
indicated lack of wholesome and plentiful
nourishment. A pathetic, uneasy look was
in her gray eyes, and even faintly stamped
her features, which were fine and delicate.
In lieu of a hat, a barege veil covered her
light brown and abundant hair. She wore
a coarse white cotton " josie," and a blue
LOVE ON THE BON-DIE U. 171
calico skirt that only half concealed her
As she sat there, she held carefully in
her lap a parcel of eggs securely fastened
in a red bandana handkerchief.
Twice already a handsome, stalwart young
man in quest of the priest had entered the
yard, and penetrated to where she sat. At
first they had exchanged the uncompromis
ing " howdy " of strangers, and nothing
more. The second time, finding the priest
still absent, he hesitated to go at once.
Instead, he * stood upon the step, and nar
rowing his brown eyes, gazed beyond the
river, off towards the west, where a murky
streak of mist was spreading across the sun.
"It look like mo rain," he remarked,
slowly and carelessly.
" We done had bout nough," she re
plied, in much the same tone.
" It s no chance to thin out the cotton,"
he went on.
" An the Bon-Dieu," she resumed, " it s
on y to-day you can cross him on foot."
" You live yonda on the Bon-Dieu, done ? "
he asked, looking at her for the first time
since he had spoken.
" Yas, by Nid d Hibout, m sieur."
172 LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU.
Instinctive courtesy held him from ques
tioning her further. But he seated himself
on the step, evidently determined to wait
there for the priest. He said no more, but
sat scanning critically the steps, the porch,
and pillar beside him, from which he occa
sionally tore away little pieces of detached
wood, where it was beginning to rot at its
A click at the side gate that communi
cated with the churchyard soon announced
Pre Antoine s return. He came hurriedly
across the garden-path, between the tall,
lusty rosebushes that lined either side of
it, which were now fragrant with blossoms.
His long, flapping cassock added something
of height to his undersized, middle-aged
figure, as did the skullcap which rested
securely back on his head. He saw only
the young man at first, who rose at his
" Well, Azenor," he called cheerily in
French, extending his hand. " How is this ?
I expected you all the week."
" Yes, monsieur ; but I knew well what
you wanted with me, and I was finishing the
doors for Gros-Leon s new house ; " saying
which, he drew back, and indicated by a
LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU. 173
motion and look that some one was present
who had a prior claim upon Pere Antoine s
" Ah, Lalie ! " the priest exclaimed, when
he had mounted to the porch, and saw her
there behind the vines. "Have you been
waiting here since you confessed? Surely
an hour ago ! "
" Yes, monsieur."
" You should rather have made some
visits in the village, child."
"I am not acquainted with any one in
the village," she returned.
The priest, as he spoke, had drawn a
chair, and seated himself beside her, with
his hands comfortably clasping his knees.
He wanted to know how things were out on
"And how is the grandmother?" he
asked. "As cross and crabbed as ever?
And with that" he added reflectively
"good for ten years yet! I said only yes
terday to Butrand you know Butrand, he
works on Le Blot s Bon-Dieu place And
that Madame Zidore: how is it with her,
Butrand ? I believe God has forgotten Ijer
here on earth. 4 It is n t that, your rever
ence, said Butrand, but it s neither God
174 LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU.
nor the Devil that wants her ! And Pre
Antoine laughed with a jovial frankness that
took all sting of ill-nature from his very
Lalie did not reply when he spoke of
her grandmother ; she only pressed her lips
firmly together, and picked nervously at the
" I have come to ask, Monsieur Antoine,"
she began, lower than she needed to speak
for Azenor had withdrawn at once to the
far end of the porch " to ask if you will
give me a little scrap of paper a piece of
writing for Monsieur Chartrand at the store
over there. I want new shoes and stock
ings for Easter, and I have brought eggs to
trade for them. He says he is willing, yes,
if he was sure I would bring more every
week till the shoes are paid for."
With good-natured indifference, Pere An
toine wrote the order that the girl desired.
He was too familiar with distress to feel
keenly for a girl who was able to buy Eas
ter shoes and pay for them with eggs.
She went immediately away then, after
shaking hands with the priest, and sending
a quick glance of her pathetic eyes towards
Azenor, who had turned when he heard her
LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU. 175
rise, and nodded when he caught the look.
Through the vines he watched her cross the
" How is it that you do not know Lalie,
Azenor? You surely must have seen her
pass your house often. It lies on her way
to the Bon-Dieu."
"No, I don t know her; I have never
seen her,", the young man replied, as he
seated himself after the priest and kept
his eyes absently fixed on the store across
the road, where he had seen her enter.
" She is the granddaughter of that Ma
dame Izidore "
" What ! Ma ame Zidore whom they drove
off the island last winter? "
" Yes, yes. Well, you know, they say the
old woman stole wood and things, I don t
know how true it is, and destroyed peo
ple s property out of pure malice."
" And she lives now on the Bon-Dieu ? "
"Yes, on Le Blot s place, in a perfect
wreck of a cabin. You see, she gets it for
nothing ; not a negro on the place but has
refused to live in it."
" Surely, it can t be that old abandoned
hovel near the swamp, that Michon occu
pied ages ago?"
176 LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU.
" That is the one, the very one."
" And the girl lives there with that old
wretch ? " the young man marveled.
"Old wretch to be sure, Azenor. But
what can you expect from a woman who
never crosses the threshold of God s house
who even tried to hinder the child doing
so as well ? But I went to her. I said :
See here, Madame Zidore, you know
it s my way to handle such people without
gloves, you may damn your soul if you
choose, I told her, that is a privilege which
we all have ; but none of us has a right to
imperil the salvation of another. I want
to see Lalie at mass hereafter on Sundays,
or you will hear from me ; and I shook my
stick under her nose. Since then the child
has never missed a Sunday. But she is
half starved, you can see that. You saw
how shabby she is how broken her shoes
are? She is at Chartrand s now, trading
for new ones with those eggs she brought,
poor thing ! There is no doubt of her being
ill-treated. Butrand says he thinks Madame
Zidore even beats the child. I don t know
how true it is, for no power can make her
utter a word against her grandmother."
Azenor, whose face was a kind and sensi-
LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU. 177
tive one, had paled with distress as the
priest spoke ; and now at these final words
he quivered as though he felt the sting of a
cruel blow upon his own flesh.
But no more was said of Lalie, for Pere
Antoine drew the young man s attention to
the carpenter-work which he wished to in
trust to him. When they had talked the
matter over in all its lengthy details, Aze-
nor mounted his horse and rode away.
A moment s gallop carried him outside the
village. Then came a half-mile strip along
the river to cover. Then the lane to enter,
in which stood his dwelling midway, upon a
low, pleasant knoll.
As Azenor turned into the lane, he saw
the figure of Lalie far ahead of him. Some
how he had expected to find her there,
and he watched her again as he had done
through Pere Antoine s vines. When she
passed his house, he wondered if she would
turn to look at it. But she did not. How
could she know it was his ? Upon reaching
it himself, he did not enter the yard, but
stood there motionless, his eyes always fas
tened upon the girl s figure. He could not
see, away off there, how coarse her garments
were. She seemed, through the distance
178 LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU.
that divided them, as slim and delicate as
a flower-stalk. He stayed till she reached
the turn of the lane and disappeared into
Mass had not yet begun when Azenor tip
toed into church on Easter morning. He
did not take his place with the congregation,
but stood close to the holy-water font, and
watched the people who entered.
Almost every girl who passed him wore a
white mull, a dotted swiss, or a fresh-starched
muslin at least. They were bright with rib
bons that hung from their persons, and flow
ers that bedecked their hats. Some car
ried fans and cambric handkerchiefs. Most
of them wore gloves, and were odorant of
poudre de riz and nice toilet-waters ; while
all carried gay little baskets filled with Eas
But there was one who came empty-handed,
save for the worn prayer-book which she
bore. It was Lalie, the veil upon her head,
and wearing the blue print and cotton bodice
which she had worn the day before.
He dipped his hand into the holy water
when she came, and held it out to her,
though he had not thought of doing this for
LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU. 179
the others. She touched his fingers with
the tips of her own, making a slight inclina
tion as she did so ; and after a deep genu
flection before the Blessed Sacrament, passed
on to the side. He was not sure if she had
known him. He knew she had not looked
into his eyes, for he would have felt it.
He was angered against other young
women who passed him, because of their
flowers and ribbons, when she wore none.
He himself did not care, but he feared she
might, and watched her narrowly to see if
But it was plain that Lalie did not care.
Her face, as she seated herself, settled into
the same restful lines it had worn yesterday,
when she sat in Pere Aiitoine s big chair. It
seemed good to her to be there. Sometimes
she looked up at the little colored panes
through which the Easter sun was stream
ing ; then at the flaming candles, like stars ;
or at the embowered figures of Joseph and
Mary, flanking the central tabernacle which
shrouded the risen Christ. Yet she liked
just as well to watch the young girls in their
spring freshness, or to sensuously inhale the
mingled odor of flowers and incense that
filled the temple.
180 LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU.
Lalie was among the last to quit the
church. When she walked down the clean
pathway that led from it to the road, she
looked with pleased curiosity towards the
groups of men and maidens who were gayly
matching their Easter-eggs under the shade
of the China-berry trees.
Azenor was among them, and when he
saw her coming solitary down the path, he
approached her and, with a smile, extended
his hat, whose crown was quite lined with
the pretty colored eggs.
" You mus of forgot to bring aiggs," he
said. " Take some o mine."
" Non, merci," she replied, flushing and
But he urged them anew upon her. Much
pleased, then, she bent her pretty head over
the hat, and was evidently puzzled to make
a selection among so many that were beau
He picked out one for her, a pink one,
dotted with white clover-leaves.
" Yere," he said, handing it to her, " I
think this is the pretties ; an it look strong
too. I m sho it will break all of the res ."
And he playfully held out another, half-
hidden in his fist, for her to try its strength
LOVE ON THE BON-DIE U. 181
upon. But she refused to. She would not
risk the ruin of her pretty egg. Then she
walked away, without once having noticed
that the girls, whom Azenor had left, were
looking curiously at her.
When he rejoined them, he was hardly
prepared for their greeting ; it startled him.
" How come you talk to that girl ? She s
real canaille, her," was what one of them
said to him.
" Who say so ? Who say she s canaille ?
If it s a man, I 11 smash is head ! " he ex
claimed, livid. They all laughed merrily at
" An if it s a lady, Azenor ? W at you
goin to do bout it ? " asked another, quiz-
" T ain no lady. No lady would say that
bout a po girl, w at she don t even know."
He turned away, and emptying all his
eggs into the hat of a little urchin who stood
near, walked out of the churchyard. He
did not stop to exchange another word with
any one ; neither with the men who stood
all endimanches before the stores, nor the
women who were mounting upon horses and
into vehicles, or walking in groups to their
182 LOVE ON THE BON-DIE U.
He took a short cut across the cotton-field
that extended back of the town, and walk
ing rapidly, soon reached his home. It was
a pleasant house of few rooms and many
windows, with fresh air blowing through
from every side ; his workshop was beside it.
A broad strip of greensward, studded here
and there with trees, sloped down to the
Azenor entered the kitchen, where an
amiable old black woman was chopping
onion and sage at a table.
" Tranquiline," he said abruptly, " they s
a young girl goin to pass yere afta a w ile.
She s got a blue dress an w ite josie on, an
a veil on her head. Wen you see her, I
want you to go to the road an make her res
there on the bench, an ask her if she don t
want a cup o coffee. I saw her go to com
munion, me ; so she did n t eat any break-
fas . Eve ybody else f om out o town, that
went to communion, got invited somew ere
another. It s enough to make a person sick
to see such meanness."
" An you want me ter go down to de
gate, jis so, an ax er pineblank ef she
wants some coffee ? " asked the bewildered
LOVE ON THE SON-DIE U. 183
" I don t care if you ask her poin blank
o not; but you do like I say." Tranqui-
line was leaning over the gate when Lalie
" Howdy," offered the woman.
" Howdy," the girl returned.
" Did you see a yalla calf wid black spots
a t arin down de lane, missy?"
" Non ; not yalla, an not with black spot .
Mais I see one li le w ite calf tie by a rope,
yonda roun the ben ."
" Dat warn t hit. Dis heah one was yalla.
I hope he done flung hisse f down de bank
an broke his nake. Sarve im right ! But
whar you come f om, chile ? You look plum
wo out. Set down dah on dat bench, an le
me fotch you a cup o coffee."
Azeiior had already in his eagerness ar
ranged a tray, upon which was a smoking
cup of cafe au lait. He had buttered and
jellied generous slices of bread, and was
searching wildly for something when Tran-
" Wat become o that half of chicken-pie,
Tranquiline, that was yere in the garde
manger yesterday ? "
" Wat chicken-pie ? Wat garde man
ger ? " blustered the woman.
184 LOVE ON THE BON-D1EU.
" Like we got mo en one garde manger
in the house, Tranquiline ! "
" You jis like ole Ma ame Azeiior use to
be, you is ! You spec chicken-pie gwine las
etarnal ? Wen some pin done sp ilt, I flings
it way. Dat s me dat s Tranquiline ! "
So Azenor resigned himself, what else
could he do ? and sent the tray, incom
plete, as he fancied it, out to Lalie.
He trembled at thought of what he did ;
he, whose nerves were usually as steady as
some piece of steel mechanism.
Would it anger her if she suspected ?
Would it please her if she knew ? Would
she say this or that to Tranquiline? And
would Tranquiline tell him truly what she
said how she looked ?
As it was Sunday, Azenor did not work
that afternoon. Instead, he took a book
out under the trees, as he often did, and sat
reading it, from the first sound of the Ves
per bell, that came faintly across the fields,
till the Angelus. All that time ! He
turned many a page, yet in the end did not
know what he had read. With his pencil
he had traced " Lalie " upon every margin,
and was saying it softly to himself.
LOVE ON THE BON-DIE U. 185
Another Sunday Azenor saw Lalie at
mass and again. Once he walked with
her and showed her the short cut across
the cotton-field. She was very glad that
day, and told him she was going to work
her grandmother said she might. She was
going to hoe, up in the fields with Monsieur
Le Blot s hands. He entreated her not to ;
and when she asked his reason, he could not
tell her, but turned and tore shyly and sav
agely at the elder-blossoms that grew along
Then they stopped where she was going
to cross the fence from the field into the
lane. He wanted to tell her that was his
house which they could see not far away ;
but he did not dare to, since he had fed her
there on the morning she was hungry.
" An you say yo gran ma s goin to let
you work? She keeps you f om workin ,
done ? " He wanted to question her about
her grandmother, and could think of no
other way to begin.
" Po ole grand mre ! " she answered. " I
don b lieve she know mos time w at she s
doin . Sometime she say I aint no betta
an one nigga, an she fo ce me to work.
Then she say she know I m goin be one
186 LOVE ON THE BON-DIE U.
canaille like mam an, an she make me set
down still, like she would want to kill me if
I would move. Pier, she on y want to be
out in the wood , day an night, day an night.
She am got her right head, po grand mere.
I know she ain t."
Lalie had spoken low and in jerks, as if
every word gave her pain. Azenor could
feel her distress as plainly as he saw it. He
wanted to say something to her to do
something for her. But her mere presence
paralyzed him into inactivity except his
pulses, that beat like hammers when he was
with her. Such a poor, shabby little thing
as she was, too !
" I m goin to wait yere nex Sunday fo
you, Lalie," he said, when the fence was be
tween them. And he thought he had said
something very daring.
But the next Sunday she did not come.
She was neither at the appointed place of
meeting in the lane, nor was she at mass.
Her absence so unexpected affected
Azenor like a calamity. Late in the after
noon, when he could stand the trouble and
bewilderment of it no longer, he went and
leaned over Pere Antoine s fence. The
priest was picking the slugs from his roses
on the other side.
LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU. 187
"That young girl from the Bon-Dieu,"
said Azenor " she was not at mass to-day.
I suppose her grandmother has forgotten
" No," answered the priest. " The child
is ill, I hear. Butrand tells me she has been
ill for several days from overwork in the
fields. I shall go out to-morrow to see about
her. I would go to-day, if I could."
" The child is ill," was all Azenor heard
or understood of Pere Antoine s words. He
turned and walked resolutely away, like one
who determines suddenly upon action after
He walked towards his home and past it,
as if it were a spot that did not concern
him. He went on down the lane and into
the wood where he had seen Lalie disappear
that day. ,
Here all was shadow, for the sun had
dipped too low in the west to send a single
ray through the dense foliage of the forest.
Now that he found himself on the way
to Lalie s home, he strove to understand
why he had not gone there before. He
often visited other girls in the village and
neighborhood, why not have gone to her,
as well ? The answer lay too deep in his
188 LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU.
heart for him to be more than half-con
scious of it. Fear had kept him, dread
to see her desolate life face to face. He
did not know how he could bear it.
But now he was going to her at last.
She was ill. He would stand upon that
dismantled porch that he could just remem
ber. Doubtless Ma ame Zidore would come
out to know his will, and he would tell her
that Pre Antoine had sent to inquire how
Mamzelle Lalie was. No ! Why drag in
Pere Antoine ? He would simply stand
boldly and say, " Ma ame Zidore, I learn
that Lalie is ill. I have come to know if
it is true, and to see her, if I may."
When Azenor reached the cabin where
Lalie dwelt, all sign of day had vanished.
Dusk had fallen swiftly after the sunset.
The moss that hung heavy from great live-
oak branches was making fantastic silhou
ettes against the eastern sky that the big,
round moon was beginning to light. Off in
the swamp beyond the bayou, hundreds of
dismal voices were droning a lullaby. Upon
the hovel itself, a stillness like death rested.
Oftener than once Azenor tapped upon
the door, which was closed as well as it
could be, without obtaining a reply. He
LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU. 189
finally approached one of the small un-
glazed windows, in which coarse mosquito-
netting had been fastened, and looked into
By the moonlight slanting in he could see
Lalie stretched upon a bed ; but of Ma ame
Zidore there was no sign. " Lalie ! " he
called softly. " Lalie ! "
TJlie girl slightly moved her head upon
the pillow. Then he boldly opened the
door and entered.
Upon a wretched bed, over which was
spread a cover of patched calico, Lalie lay,
her frail body only half concealed by the
single garment that was upon it. One
hand was plunged beneath her pillow ; the
other, which was free, he touched. It was
as hot as flame ; so was her head. He
knelt sobbing upon the floor beside her,
and called her his love and his soul. He
begged her to speak a word to him, to
look at him. But she only muttered dis-
jointedly that the cotton was all turning to
ashes in the fields, and the blades of the
corn were in flames.
If he was choked with love and grief to
see her so, he was moved by anger as well ;
rage against himself, against Pere Antoine,
190 LOVE ON THE SON-DIE U.
against the people upon the plantation and
in the village, who had so abandoned a
helpless creature to misery and maybe
death. Because she had been silent had
not lifted her voice in complaint they be
lieved she suffered no more than she could
But surely the people could not be utterly
without heart. There must be one some
where with the spirit of Christ. Pere An-
toine would tell him of such a one, and he
would carry Lalie to her, out of this at
mosphere of death. He was in haste to be
gone with her. He fancied every moment
of delay was a fresh danger threatening her
He folded the rude bed-cover over Lalie s
naked limbs, and lifted her in his arms.
She made no resistance. She seemed only
loath to withdraw her hand from beneath
the pillow. When she did, he saw that she
held lightly but firmly clasped in her en
circling fingers the pretty Easter-egg he had
given her ! He uttered a low cry of exulta
tion as the full significance of this came
over him. If she had hung for hours upon
his neck telling him that she loved him, he
could not have known it more surely than
LOVE ON THE BON-DIEU. 19J
by this sign. Azenor felt as if some mys
terious bond had all at once drawn them
heart to heart and made them one.
No need now to go from door to door
begging admittance for her. She was his.
She belonged to him. He knew now where
her place was, whose roof must shelter her,
and whose arms protect her.
So Azenor, with his loved one in his
arms, walked through the forest, sure
footed as a panther. Once, as he walked,
he could hear in the distance the weird
chant which Ma ame Zidore was crooning
to the moon, maybe as she gathered her
Once, where the water was trickling cool
through rocks, he stopped to lave Lalie s
hot cheeks and hands and forehead. He
had not once touched his lips to her. But
now, when a sudden great fear came upon
him because she did not know him, instinct
ively he pressed his lips upon hers that
were parched and burning. He held them
there till hers were soft and pliant from
the healthy moisture of his own.
Then she knew him. She did not tell
him so, but her stiffened fingers relaxed
their tense hold upon the Easter bauble.
192 LOVE ON THE EON-DIE U.
It fell to the ground as she twined her arm
around his neck ; and he understood.
" Stay close by her, Tranquiline," said
Azenor, when he had laid Lalie upon his
own couch at home. " I m goin for the
doctor en for Pere Antoine. Not because
she is goin to die," he added hastily, seeing
the awe that crept into the woman s face
at mention of the priest. " She is goin to
live ! Do you think I would let my wife
die, Tranquiline ? "
SHE was a half-breed Indian girl, with
hardly a rag to her back. To the ladies of
the Band of United Endeavor who ques
tioned her, she said her name was Loka, and
she did not know where she belonged, unless
it was on Bayou Choctaw.
She had appeared one day at the side
door of Frobissaint s "oyster saloon" in
Natchitoches, asking for food. Frobissaint,
a practical philanthropist, engaged her on
the spot as tumbler-washer.
She was not successful at that ; she broke
too many tumblers. But, as Frobissaint
charged her with the broken glasses, he did
not mind, until she began to break them over
the heads of his customers. Then he seized
her by the wrist and dragged her before the
Band of United Endeavor, then in session
around the corner. This was considerate on
Frobissaint s part, for he could have dragged
her just as well to the police station.
Loka was not beautiful, as she stood in
her red calico rags before the scrutinizing
band. Her coarse, black, unkempt hair
framed a broad, swarthy face without a re
deeming feature, except eyes that were not
bad; slow in their movements, but frank
eyes enough. She was big -boned and
She did not know how old she was. The
minister s wife reckoned she might be six
teen. The judge s wife thought that it made
no difference. The doctor s wife suggested
that the girl have a bath and change before
she be handled, even in discussion. The
motion was not seconded. Loka s ultimate
disposal was an urgent and difficult con
Some one mentioned a reformatory.
Every one else objected.
Madame Laballiere, the planter s wife,
knew a respectable family of Cadians living
some miles below, who, she thought, would
give the girl a home, with benefit to all con
cerned. The Cadian woman was a deserving
one, with a large family of small children,
who had all her own work to do. The hus
band cropped in a modest way. Loka would
not only be taught to work at the Padues ,
but would receive a good moral training
That settled it. Every one agreed with
the planter s wife that it was a chance in a
thousand ; and Loka was sent to sit on the
steps outside, while the band proceeded to
the business next in order.
Loka was afraid of treading upon the lit
tle Padues when she first got amongst them,
there were so many of them, and her
feet were like leaden weights, encased in the
strong brogans with which the band had
equipped her. *
Madame Padue, a small, black-eyed, ag
gressive woman, questioned her in a sharp,
direct fashion peculiar to herself.
"How come you don t talk French, you?"
Loka shrugged her shoulders.
" I kin talk English good s anybody ; an
lit bit Choctaw, too," she offered, apologeti
" Ma foi, you kin fo git yo Choctaw.
Soona the betta for me. Now if you wil-
lin , an ent too lazy an sassy, we 11 git long
somehow. Vrai sauvage qa," she muttered
tinder her breath, as she turned to initiate
Loka into some of her new duties.
She herself was a worker. A good deal
more fussy one than her easy-going husband
and children thought necessary or agreeable.
Loka s slow ways and heavy motions aggra
vated her. It was in vain Monsieur Padue
" She s on y a chile, rememba, Tontine."
" She s vrai sauvage, that s w at. It s
got to be work out of her," was Tontine s
only reply to such remonstrance.
The girl was indeed so deliberate about
her tasks that she had to be urged constantly
to accomplish the amount of labor that Ton
tine required of her. Moreover, she carried
to her work a stolid indifference that was
exasperating. Whether at the wash-tub,
scrubbing the floors, weeding the garden, or
learning her lessons and catechism with the
children on Sundays, it was the same.
It was only when intrusted with the care
of little Bibine, the baby, that Loka crept
somewhat out of her apathy. She grew very
fond of him. No wonder ; such a baby as
he was ! So good, so fat, and complaisant !
He had such a way of clasping Loka s broad
face between his pudgy fists and savagely
biting her chin with his hard, toothless
gums ! Such a way of bouncing in her arms
as if he were mounted upon springs ! At
his antics the girl would laugh a wholesome,
ringing laugh that was good to hear.
She was left alone to watch and nurse him
one day. An accommodating neighbor who
had become the possessor of a fine new spring-
wagon passed by just after the noon-hour
meal, and offered to take the whole family
on a jaunt to town. The offer was all the
more tempting as Tontine had some long-
delayed shopping to do ; and the opportu
nity to equip the children with shoes and
summer hats could not be slighted. So
away they all went. All but Bibine, who
was left swinging in his branle with only
Loka for company.
This branle consisted of a strong circular
piece of cotton cloth, securely but slackly
fastened to a large, stout hoop suspended by
three light cords to a hook in a rafter of
the gallery. The baby who has not swung
in a branle does not know the quintessence
of baby luxury. In each of the four rooms
of the house was a hook from which to hang
Often it was taken out under the trees.
But to-day it swung in the shade of the open
gallery ; and Loka sat beside it, giving it
now and then a slight impetus that sent it
circling in slow, sleep-inspiring undulations.
Bibine kicked and cooed as long as he
was able. But Loka was humming a mo
notonous lullaby ; the branle was swaying to
and fro, the warm air fanning him deli-
ciously ; and Bibine was soon fast asleep.
Seeing this, Loka quietly let down the
mosquito net, to protect the child s slumber
from the intrusion of the many insects that
were swarming in the summer air.
Singularly enough, there was no work
for her to do ; and Tontine, in her hurried
departure, had failed to provide for the
emergency. The washing and ironing were
over ; the floors had been scrubbed, and the
rooms righted; the yard swept; the chick
ens fed ; vegetables picked and washed.
There was absolutely nothing to do, and
Loka gave herself up to the dreams of idle
As she sat comfortably back in the roomy
rocker, she let her eyes sweep lazily across
the country. Away off to the right peeped
up, from amid densely clustered trees, the
pointed roofs and long pipe of the steam-gin
of Laballiere s. No other habitation was
visible except a few low, flat dwellings far
over the river, that could hardly be seen.
The immense plantation took up all the
land in sight. The few acres that Baptiste
Padue cultivated were his own, that Labal-
liere, out of friendly consideration, had sold
to him. Baptiste s fine crop of cotton and
corn was " laid by " just now, waiting for
rain ; and Baptiste had gone with the rest
of the family to town. Beyond the river
and the field and everywhere about were
Loka s gaze, that had been slowly travel
ing along the edge of the horizon, finally
fastened upon the woods, and stayed there.
Into her eyes came the absent look of one
whose thought is projected into the future
or the past, leaving the present blank. She
was seeing a vision. It had come with a
whiff that the strong south breeze had blown
to her from the woods.
She was seeing old Marot, the squaw who
drank whiskey and plaited baskets and beat
her. There was something, after all, in being
beaten, if only to scream out and fight back,
as at that time in Natchitoches, when she
broke a glass on the head of a man who
laughed at her and pulled her hair, and
called her " fool names."
Old Marot wanted her to steal and cheat,
to beg and lie, when they went out with the
baskets to sell. Loka did not want to. She
did not like to. That was why she had run
away and because she was beaten. But
but ah ! the scent of the sassafras leaves
hanging to dry in the shade ! The pungent
camomile ! The sound of the bayou tum
bling over that old slimy log ! Only to lie
there for hours and watch the glistening
lizards glide in and out was worth a beating.
She knew the birds must be singing in
chorus out there in the woods where the
gray moss was hanging, and the trumpet-
vine trailing from the trees, spangled with
blossoms. In spirit she heard the song
She wondered if Choctaw Joe and Sam-
bite played dice every night by the camp-
fire, as they used to do ; and if they still
fought and slashed each other when wild
with drink. How good it felt to walk with
moccasined feet over the springy turf, under
the trees ! What fun to trap the squirrels,
to skin the otter ; to take those swift flights
on the pony that Choctaw Joe had stolen
from the Texans !
Loka sat motionless ; only her breast
heaved tumultuously. Her heart was aching
with savage homesickness. She could not
feel just then that the sin and pain of that
life were anything beside the joy of its free
Loka was sick for the woods. She felt
she must die if she could not get back to
them, and to her vagabond life. Was there
anything to hinder her? She stooped and
unlaced the brogans that were chafing her
feet, removed them and her stockings, and
threw the things away from her. She stood
up all a-quiver, panting, ready for flight.
But there was a sound that stopped her.
It was little Bibine, cooing, sputtering, bat
tling hands and feet with the mosquito net
that he had dragged over his face. The girl
uttered a sob as she reached down for the
baby she had grown to love so, and clasped
him in her arms. She could not go and
leave Bibine behind.
Tontine began to grumble at once when
she discovered that Loka was not at hand to
receive them on their return.
"Bon / " she exclaimed. " Now w ere is
that Loka ? Ah, that girl, she aggravates
me too much. Firs thing she knows I m
goin sen her straight back to them ban of
lady w ere she come frum."
"Loka! " she called, in short, sharp tones,
as she traversed the house and peered into
each room. " Lo ka ! " She cried loudly
enough to be heard half a mile away when
she got out upon the back gallery. Again
and again she called.
Baptiste was exchanging the discomfort
of his Sunday coat for the accustomed ease
of shirt sleeves.
"Mais don t git so excite, Tontine," he
implored. " I m sho she s yonda to the crib
shellin co n, or some w ere like that."
" Run, Francois, you, an see to the crib,"
the mother commanded. " Bibine mus be
starve ! Run to the hen-house an look, Juli
ette. Maybe she s fall asleep in some corna.
That 11 learn me notha time to go trus
une pareille saitvage with my baby, vaf"
When it was discovered that Loka was
nowhere in the immediate vicinity, Tontine
"Pas possible she s walk to Laballiere,
with Bibine ! " she exclaimed.
"I 11 saddle the hoss an go see, Tontine,"
interposed Baptiste, who was beginning to
share his wife s uneasiness.
" Go, go, Baptiste," she urged. " An you,
boys, run yonda down the road to ole Aunt
Judy s cabin an see,"
It was found that Loka had not been seen
at Laballiere s, nor at Aunt Judy s cabin ;
that she had not taken the boat, that was
still fastened to its moorings down the bank.
Then Tontine s excitement left her. She
turned pale and sat quietly down in her
room, with an unnatural calm that fright
ened the children.
Some of them began to cry. Baptiste
walked restlessly about, anxiously scanning
the country in all directions. A wretched
hour dragged by. The sun had set, leaving
hardly an afterglow, and in a little while
the twilight that falls so swiftly would be
Baptiste was preparing to mount his horse,
to start out again on the round he had al
ready been over. Tontine sat in the same
state of intense abstraction when Fra^ois,
who had perched himself among the lofty
branches of a chinaberry-tree, called out :
" Ent that Loka way yon a, jis come out
de wood? climbin de fence down by de
melon patch ? "
It was difficult to distinguish in the gath
ering dusk if the figure were that of man or
beast. But the family was not left long in
suspense. Baptiste sped his horse away in
the direction indicated by Francis, and in
a little while he was galloping back with
Bibine in his arms ; as fretful, sleepy and
hungry a baby as ever was.
Loka came trudging on behind Baptiste.
He did not wait for explanations ; he was
too eager to place the child in the arms of
its mother. The suspense over, Tontine
began to cry; that followed naturally, of
course. Through her tears she managed to
address Loka, who stood all tattered and
disheveled in the doorway : " Were you
been? Tell me that."
" Bibine an me," answered Loka, slowly
and awkwardly, " we was lonesome we
been take lit broad in de wood."
" You did n know no betta an to take
way Bibine like that? Wat Ma ame La-
balliere mean, anyhow, to sen me such a
objec like you, I want to know ? "
" You go n sen me way ? " asked Loka,
passing her hand in a hopeless fashion over
her frowzy hair.
" Par exemple ! straight you march back
to that ban w ere you come from. To give
me such a fright like that ! JP&S possible"
" Go slow, Tontine ; go slow," interposed
" Don sen me way frum Bibine," en
treated the girl, with a note in her voice
like a lament.
" To-day," she went on, in her dragging
manner, " I want to run way bad, an take
to de wood ; an go yonda back to Bayou
Choctaw to steal an lie agin. It s on y
Bibine w at hole me back. I could n lef
im. I could n do dat. An we jis go take
lit broad in de wood, das all, him an me.
Don sen me way like dat ! "
Baptiste led the girl gently away to the
far end of the gallery, and spoke soothingly
to her. He told her to be good and brave,
and he would right the trouble for her. He
left her standing there and went back to his
" Tontine," he began, with unusual energy,
" you got to listen to the truth once fo
all." He had evidently determined to profit
by his wife s lachrymose and wilted condition
to assert his authority.
" I want to say who s masta in this house
it s me," he went on. Tontine did not
protest ; only clasped the baby a little closer,
which encouraged him to proceed.
" You been grind that girl too much. She
ent a bad girl I been watch her close,
count of the chil ren ; she ent bad. All
she want, it s li le mo rope. You can t
drive a ox with the same gearin you drive
a mule. You got to learn that, Tontine."
He approached his wife s chair and stood
" That girl, she done tole us how she was
temp to-day to turn canaille like we all
temp sometime . Wat was it save her?
That li le chile w at you hole in yo arm.
An now you want to take her guarjun angel
way f om her? Non, non, mafemme" he
said, resting his hand gently upon his wife s
head. " We got to rememba she ent like
you an me, po thing; she s one Injun,
BOULOT AND BOULOTTE.
WHEN Boulot and Boulotte, the little
piny-wood twins, had reached the dignified
age of twelve, it was decided in family coun
cil that the time had come for them to put
their little naked feet into shoes. They were
two brown-skinned, black-eyed Cadian roly-
polies, who lived with father and mother
and a troop of brothers and sisters halfway
up the hill, in a neat log cabin that had a
substantial mud chimney at one end. They
could well afford shoes now, for they had
saved many a picayune through their indus
try of selling wild grapes, blackberries, and
socoes " to ladies in the village who " put
up " such things.
Boulot and Boulotte were to buy the shoes
themselves, and they selected a Saturday
afternoon for the important transaction, for
that is the great shopping time in Natchi-
toches Parish. So upon a bright Saturday
afternoon Boulot and Boulotte, hand in hand,
with their quarters, their dimes, and their
208 BOULOT AND BOULOTTE
picayunes tied carefully in a Sunday hand
kerchief, descended the hill, and disappeared
from the gaze of the eager group that had
assembled to see them go.
Long before it was time for their return,
this same small band, with ten year old Ser-
aphine at their head, holding a tiny Seraphin
in her arms, had stationed themselves in a
row before the cabin at a convenient point
from which to make quick and careful obser
Even before the two could be caught sight
of, their chattering voices were heard down
by the spring, where they had doubtless
stopped to drink. The voices grew more
and more audible. Then, through the
branches of the young pines, Boulotte s blue
sun-bonnet appeared, and Boulot s straw hat.
Finally the twins, hand in hand, stepped
into the clearing in full view.
Consternation seized the band.
" You bof crazy done, Boulot an Bou-
lotte," screamed Seraphine. "You go buy
shoes, an come home barefeet like you was
Boulot flushed crimson. He silently hung
his head, and looked sheepishly down at his
bare feet, then at the fine stout brogans that
BOULOT AND BOULOTTE. 209
he carried in his hand. He had not thought
Boulotte also carried shoes, but of the
glossiest, with the highest of heels and
brightest of buttons. But she was not one
to be disconcerted or to look sheepish ; far
" You spec Boulot an me we got money
fur was e us ? " she retorted, with wither
ing condescension. " You think we go buy
shoes fur ruin it in de dus ? Comment ! "
And they all walked into the house crest
fallen ; all but Boulotte, who was mistress
of the situation, and Seraphin, who did not
care one way or the other.
FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE.
" AN now, young man, w at you want to
remember is this an take it f er yo motto :
No monkey-shines with Uncle Sam. You
undastan ? You aware now o the penalties
attached to monkey-shinin with Uncle Sam.
I reckon that s bout all I got to say ; so
you be on han promp to-morrow mornin
at seven o clock, to take charge o the United
This formed the close of a very pompous
address delivered by the postmaster of Clou-
tierville to young Armand Verchette, who
had been appointed to carry the mails from
the village to the railway station three miles
Armand or Chouchoute, as every one
chose to call him, following the habit of the
Creoles in giving nicknames had heard
the man a little impatiently.
Not so the negro boy who accompanied
him. The child had listened with the deep
est respect and awe to every word of the
FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE. 211
" How much you gwine git, Marse Chou-
choute? " he asked, as they walked down the
village street together, the black boy a little
behind. He was very black, and slightly
deformed ; a small boy, scarcely reaching to
the shoulder of his companion, whose cast-
off garments he wore. But Chouchoute was
tall for his sixteen years, and carried him
" W y, I m goin to git thirty dolla a
month, Wash ; w at you say to that ? Betta
an hoein cotton, ain t it?" He laughed
with a triumphant ring in his voice.
But Wash did not laugh ; he was too
much impressed by the importance of this
new function, too much bewildered by the
vision of sudden wealth which thirty dollars
a month meant to his understanding.
He felt, too, deeply conscious of the great
weight of responsibility which this new of
fice brought with it. The imposing salary
had confirmed the impression left by the
postmaster s words.
" You gwine git all dat money ? Sakes !
W at you reckon Ma ame Verchette say ? I
know she gwine mos take a fit w en she heah
But Chouchoute s mother did not " mos
212 FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE.
take a fit " when she heard of her son s good
fortune. The white and wasted hand which
she rested upon the boy s black curls trem
bled a little, it is true, and tears of emotion
came into her tired eyes. This step seemed
to her the beginning of better things for her
They lived quite at the end of this little
French village, which was simply two long
rows of very old frame houses, facing each
other closely across a dusty roadway.
Their home was a cottage, so small and
so humble that it just escaped the reproach
of being a cabin.
Every one was kind to Madame Verchette.
Neighbors ran in of mornings to help her
with her work she could do so little for
herself. And often the good priest, Pere
Antoine, came to sit with her and talk inno
To say that Wash was fond of Madame
Verchette and her son is to be poor in lan
guage to express devotion. He worshiped
her as if she were already an angel in Para
Chouchoute was a delightful young fel
low; no one could help .loving him. His
heart was as warm and cheery as his own
FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE. 213
southern sunbeams. If he was born with
an unlucky trick of f orgetf ulness or bet
ter, thoughtlessness no one ever felt much
like blaming him for it, so much did it seem
a part of his happy, careless nature. And
why was that faithful watch-dog, Wash, al
ways at Marse Chouchoute s heels, if it were
not to be hands and ears and eyes to him,
more than half the time ?
One beautiful spring night, Chouchoute,
on his way to the station, was riding along
the road that skirted the river. The clumsy
mail-bag that lay before him across the pony
was almost empty ; for the Cloutierville mail
was a meagre and unimportant one at best.
But he did not know this. He was not
thinking of the mail, in fact ; he was only
feeling that life was very agreeable this de
licious spring night.
There were cabins at intervals upon the
road most of them darkened, for the hour
was late. As he approached one of these,
which was more pretentious than the others,
he heard the sound of a fiddle, and saw lights
through the openings of the house.
It was so far from the road that when he
stopped his horse and peered through the
darkness he could not recognize the dancers
214 FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE.
who passed before the open doors and win
dows. But he knew this was Gros-Leon s
ball, which he had heard the boys talking
about all the week.
Why should he not go and stand in the
doorway an instant and exchange a word
with the dancers ?
Chouchoute dismounted, fastened his horse
to the fence-post, and proceeded towards the
The room, crowded with people young and
old, was long and low, with rough beams
across the ceiling, blackened by smoke and
time. Upon the high mantelpiece a single
coal-oil lamp burned, and none too brightly.
In a far corner, upon a platform of boards
laid across two flour barrels, sat Uncle Ben,
playing upon a squeaky fiddle, and shouting
the " figures."
" Ah ! v la Chouchoute ! " some one called.
"Jus in time, Chouchoute; yere s Miss
Leontine waitin fer a partna."
" S lute yo partnas!" Uncle Ben was
thundering forth ; and Chouchoute, with one
hand gracefully behind him, made a pro
found bow to Miss Leontine, as he offered
her the other.
FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE. 215
Now Chouchoute was noted far and wide
for his skill as a dancer. The moment he
stood upon the floor, a fresh spirit seemed
to enter into all present. It was with re
newed vigor that Uncle Ben intoned his
" Balancy all ! Fus f o f o ard an back I "
The spectators drew close about the cou
ples to watch Chouchoute s wonderful per
formance ; his pointing of toes ; his pigeon-
wings in which his feet seemed hardly to
touch the floor.
" It take Chouchoute to show em de step,
va ! " proclaimed Gros-Leon, with a fat sat
isfaction, to the audience at large.
" Look inij! look im yonda ! Ole Ben
got to work hard an dat, if he want to
keep up wid Chouchoute, I tell you ! "
So it was ; encouragement and adulation
on all sides, till, from the praise that was
showered on him, Chouchoute s head was
soon as light as his feet.
At the windows appeared the dusky faces
of negroes, their bright eyes gleaming as
they viewed the scene within and mingled
their loud guffaws with the medley of sound
that was already deafening.
The time was speeding. The air was
heavy in the room, but no one seemed to
216 FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE.
mind this. Uncle Ben was calling the fig
ures now with a rhythmic sing-song :
" Right an lef all roun ! Swing co -
nas ! "
Chouchoute turned with a smile to Miss
Felicie on his left, his hand extended, when
what should break upon his ear but the
long, harrowing wail of a locomotive !
Before the sound ceased he had vanished
from the room. Miss Felicie stood as he
left her, with hand uplifted, rooted to the
spot with astonishment.
It was the train whistling ,for his station,
and he a mile and more away ! He knew
he was too late, and that he could not make
the distance ; but the sound had been a rude
reminder that he was not at his post of
However, he would do what he could now.
He ran swiftly to the outer road, and to the
spot where he had left his pony.
The horse was gone, and with it the United
States mail-bag !
For an instant Chouchoute stood half-
stunned with terror. Then, in one quick
flash, came to his mind a vision of possibil
ities that sickened him. Disgrace overtak
ing him in this position of trust; poverty
FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE. 217
his portion again; and his dear mother
forced to share both with him.
He turned desperately to some negroes
who had followed him, seeing his wild rush
from the house :
" Who saw my hoss ? Wat you all did
with my hoss, say ? "
" Who you reckon tech yo hoss, boy ? "
grumbled Gustave, a sullen-looking mulatto.
" You did n have no call to lef im in de
road, fus place."
" Pear to me like I heahed a hoss a-lopin
down de road jis now ; did n you, Uncle
Jake ? " ventured a second.
" Neva heahed nuttin nuttin t all,
cep dat big-mouf Ben yon da makin mo
fuss an a t unda-sto m."
" Boys ! " cried Chouchoute, excitedly,
" bring me a hoss, quick, one of you. I m
boun to have one ! I m boun to ! I 11 give
two.dolla to the firs man brings me a hoss."
Near at hand, in the " lot " that adjoined
Uncle Jake s cabin, was his little Creole
pony, nibbling the cool, wet grass that he
found, along the edges and in the corners of
The negro led the pony forth. With no
further word, and with one bound, Chou-
218 FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE.
choute was upon the animal s back. He
wanted neither saddle nor bridle, for there
were few horses in the neighborhood that
had not been trained to be guided by the
simple motions of a rider s body.
Once mounted, he threw himself forward
with a certain violent impulse, leaning till
his cheek touched the animal s mane.
He uttered a sharp " Hei ! " and at once,
as if possessed by sudden frenzy, the horse
dashed forward, leaving the bewildered black
men in a cloud of dust.
What a mad ride it was ! On one side
was the river bank, steep in places and
crumbling away ; on the other, an unbro
ken line of fencing; now in straight lines
of neat planking, now treacherous barbed
wire, sometimes the zigzag rail.
The night was black, with only such faint
light as the stars were shedding. No sound
was to be heard save the quick thud of the
horse s hoofs upon the hard dirt road, the
animal s heavy breathing, and the boy s
feverish " hei-hei ! " when he fancied the
Occasionally a marauding dog started
from the obscurity to bark and give useless
FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE. 219
" To the road, to the road, Bon-a-rien ! "
panted Chouchoute, for the horse in his wild
race had approached so closely to the river s
edge that the bank crumbled beneath his
flying feet. It was only by a desperate
lunge and bound that he saved himself and
rider from plunging into the water below.
Chouchoute hardly knew what he was
pursuing so madly. It was rather something
that drove him ; fear, hope, desperation.
He was rushing to the station, because it
seemed to him, naturally, the first thing to
do. There was the faint hope that his own
horse had broken rein and gone there of his
own accord ; but such hope was almost lost
in a wretched conviction that had seized
him the instant he saw " Gustave the thief "
among the men gathered at Gros-Leon s.
t; Hei ! hei, Bon-a-rien ! "
The lights of the railway station were
gleaming ahead, and Chouchoute s hot ride
was almost at an end.
With sudden and strange perversity of
purpose, Chouchoute, as he drew closer upon
the station, slackened his horse s speed. A
low fence was in his way. Not long before,
he would have cleared it at a bound, for
Bon-a-rien could do such things. Now
220 FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE.
he cantered easily to the end of it, to go
through the gate which was there.
His courage was growing faint, and his
heart sinking within him as he drew nearer
He dismounted, and holding the pony by
the mane, approached with some trepidation
the young station-master, who was taking
note of some freight that had been deposited
near the tracks.
" Mr. Hudson," faltered Chouchoute, " did
you see my pony roun yere anywhere ? an
an the mail-sack ? "
" Your pony s safe in the woods, Chou te.
The mail - bag s on its way to New Or
" Thank God ! " breathed the boy.
" But that poor little fool darkey of yours
has about done it for himself, I guess."
" Wash ? Oh, Mr. Hudson ! w at s -
w at s happen to Wash?"
" He s inside there, on my mattress. He s
hurt, and he s hurt bad ; that s what s the
matter. You see the ten forty-five had come
in, and she did n t make much of a stop ; she
was just pushing out, when bless me if that
little chap of yours didn t conie tearing
along on Spunky as if Old Harry was be
FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE. 221
" You know how No. 22 can pull at the
start ; and there was that little imp keeping
abreast of her most under the thing s wheels.
" I shouted at him. I could n t make out
what he was up to, when blamed if he
did n t pitch the mail-bag clean into the car !
Buffalo Bill couldn t have done it neater.
" Then Spunky, she shied ; and Wash he
bounced against the side of that car and
back, like a rubber ball, and laid in the
ditch till we carried him inside.
" I ve wired down the road for Doctor
Campbell to come up on 14 and do what he
can for him."
Hudson had related these events to the
distracted boy while they made their way
toward the house.
Inside, upon a low pallet, lay the little
negro, breathing heavily, his black face
pinched and ashen with approaching death.
He had wanted no one to touch him further
than to lay him upon the bed.
The few men and colored women gathered
in the room were looking upon him with pity
mingled with curiosity.
When he saw Chouchoute he closed his
eyes, and a shiver passed through his small
frame. Those about him thought he was
222 FOR MARSE CHOUCHOUTE.
dead. Chouchoute knelt, choking, at his
side and held his hand.
"O Wash, Wash! W at you did that
for ? W at made you, Wash ? "
" Marse Chouchoute," the boy whispered,
so low that no one could hear him but his
friend, " I was gwine long de big road, pas
Marse Gros-Leon s, an I seed Spunky tied
dah wid de mail. Dar warn t a minute
I clar , Marse Chouchoute, dar warn t a
minute to fotch you. W at makes my
head tu n roun dat away ? "
" Neva mine, Wash ; keep still ; don t
you try to talk," entreated Chouchoute.
" You ain t mad, Marse Chouchoute ? " .
The lad could only answer with a hand
" Dar warn t a minute, so I gits top o
Spunky I neva seed nuttin cl ar de road
like dat. I come long side de train an
fling de sack. I seed im kotch it, and I
don know nuttin mo cep mis ry, tell I
see you a-comin frough de do . Mebby
Ma ame Armand know some pin," he mur
mured faintly, " w at gwine make my
head quit tu nin round dat away. I boun
to git well, ca se who gwine watch
Marse Chouchoute ? "
A VISIT TO AVOYELLES.
EVERY one who came up from Avoyelles
had the same story to tell of Mentine. Cher
Mabtre ! but she was changed. And there
were babies, more than she could well man
age ; as good as four already. Jules was not
kind except to himself. They seldom went
to church, and never anywhere upon a visit.
They lived as poorly as pine-woods people.
Doudouce had heard the story often, the
last time no later than that morning.
" Ho-a ! " he shouted to his mule plumb
in the middle of the cotton row. He had
staggered along behind the plow since early
morning, and of a sudden he felt he had
had enough of it. He mounted the mule
and rode away to the stable, leaving the
plow with its polished blade thrust deep in
the red Cane River soil. His head felt like
a windmill with the recollections and sudden
intentions that had crowded it and were
whirling through his brain since he had
heard the last story about Mentine,
224 A VISIT TO AVOYELLES.
He knew well enough Mentine would have
married him seven years ago had not Jules
Trodon come up from Avoyelles and capti
vated her with his handsome eyes and pleas
ant speech. Doudouce was resigned then,
for he held Mentine s happiness above his
own. But now she was suffering in a hope
less, common, exasperating way for the
small comforts of life. People had told
him so. And somehow, to-day, he could
not stand the knowledge passively. He
felt he must see those things they spoke of
with his own eyes. He must strive to help
her and her children if it were possible.
Doudouce could not sleep that night. He
lay with wakeful eyes watching the moon
light creep across the bare floor of his room ;
listening to sounds that seemed unfamiliar
and weird down among the rushes along the
bayou. But towards morning he saw Men-
tine as he had seen her last in her white
wedding gown and veil. She looked at him
with appealing eyes and held out her arms
for protection, for rescue, it seemed to
him. That dream determined him. The fol
lowing day Doudouce started for Avoyelles.
Jules Trodon s home lay a mile or two
from Marks ville. It consisted of three rooms
A VISIT TO AVOYELLES. 225
strung in a row and opening upon a narrow
gallery. The whole wore an aspect of pov
erty and dilapidation that summer day, to
wards noon, when Doudouce approached it.
His presence outside the gate aroused the
frantic barking of dogs that dashed down
the steps as if to attack him. Two little
brown barefooted children, a boy and girl,
stood upon the gallery staring stupidly at
him. " Call off you dogs," he requested ;
but they only continued to stare.
" Down, Pluto ! down, Achille ! " cried the
shrill voice of a woman who emerged from
the house, holding upon her arm a delicate
baby of a year or two. There was only an
instant of unrecognition.
" Mais Doudouce, that ent you, comment !
Well, if any one would tole me this mornin !
Git a chair, Tit Jules. That s Mista Dou
douce, f om way yonda Natchitoches w ere
yo maman use to live. Mais, you ent
change ; you lookin well, Doudouce."
He shook hands in a slow, undemonstra
tive way, and seated himself clumsily upon
the hide-bottomed chair, laying his broad-
rimmed felt hat upon the floor beside him.
He was very uncomfortable in the cloth
Sunday coat which he wore.
226 A VISIT TO AVOYELLES.
44 1 had business that call me to Marks-
ville," he began, " an I say to myse f,
4 Tiens, you can t pass by without tell em
all howdy. "
"Par exemplef w at Jules would said
to that ! Mais, you lookin well ; you ent
change , Doudouce."
44 An you lookin well, Mentine, Jis the
same Mentine." He regretted that he lacked
talent to make the lie bolder.
She moved a little uneasily, and felt upon
her shoulder for a pin with which to fasten
the front of her old gown where it lacked a
button. She had kept the baby in her lap.
Doudouce was wondering miserably if he
would have known her outside her home.
He would have known her sweet, cheerful
brown eyes, that were not changed ; but her
figure, that had looked so trim in the wed
ding gown, was sadly misshapen. She was
brown, with skin like parchment, and pite-
ously thin. There were lines, some deep as
if old age had cut them, about the eyes and
44 An how you lef em all, yonda ? " she
asked, in a high voice that had grown shrill
from screaming at children and dogs.
44 They all well. It s mighty li le sickness
A VISIT TO AVOYELLES. 227
in the country this yea . But they been
lookin fo you up yonda, straight along,
" Don t talk, Doudouce, it s no chance ;
with that po wo out piece o Ian w at Jules
got. He say, anotha yea like that, he s goin
sell out, him."
The children were clutching her on either
side, their persistent gaze always fastened
upon Doudouce. He tried without avail to
make friends with them. Then Jules came
home from the field, riding the mule with
which he had worked, and which he fas
tened outside the gate.
" Yere s Doudouce f om Natchitoches,
Jules," called out Mentine, "he stop to
tell us howdy, en passant" The husband
mounted to the gallery and the two men
shook hands ; Doudouce listlessly, as he
had done with Mentine ; Jules with some
bluster and show of cordiality.
" Well, you a lucky man, you," he ex
claimed with his swagger air, " able to broad
like that, encore ! You could n t do that if
you had half a dozen mouth to feed, allez f "
" Non, j te garantis!" agreed Mentine,
with a loud laugh. Doudouce winced, as he
had done the instant before at Jules s heart-
228 A VISIT TO AVOYELLES.
less implication. This husband of Mentine
surely had not changed during the seven
years, except to grow broader, stronger, hand
somer. But Doudouce did not tell him so.
After the mid-day dinner of boiled salt
pork, corn bread and molasses, there was
nothing for Doudouce but to take his leave
when Jules did.
At the gate, the little boy was discovered
in dangerous proximity to the mule s heels,
and was properly screamed at and rebuked.
" I reckon he likes hosses," Doudouce re
marked. " He take afta you, Mentine. I
got a li le pony yonda home," he said, ad
dressing the child, " w at ent ne use to me.
I m goin sen im down to you. He s a
good, tough li le mustang. You jis can let
im eat grass an feed im a han ful o co n,
once a w ile. An he s gentle, yes. You an
yo ma can ride im to church, Sundays.
Hein ! you want ? "
"Wat you say, Jules?" demanded the
father. " W at you say? " echoed Mentine,
who was balancing the baby across the gate.
" Tit sauvage, va ! "
Doudouce shook hands all around, even
with the baby, and walked off in the oppo
site direction to Jules, who had mounted the
A VISIT TO AVOYELLES. 229
mule. He was bewildered. He stumbled
over the rough ground because of tears that
were blinding him, and that he had held in
check for the past hour.
He had loved Mentine long ago, when she
was young and attractive, and he found that
he loved her still. He had tried to put all
disturbing thought of her away, on that
wedding-day, and he. supposed he had suc
ceeded. But he loved her now as he never
had. Because she was no longer beautiful,
he loved her. Because the delicate bloom
of her existence had been rudely brushed
away ; because she was in a manner fallen ;
because she was Mentine, he loved her;
fiercely, as a mother loves an afflicted child.
He would have liked to thrust that man
aside, and gather up her and her children,
and hold them and keep them as long as
After a moment or two Doudouce looked
back at Mentine, standing at the gate
with her baby. But her face was turned
away from him. She was gazing after her
husband, who went in the direction of the
A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG.
IT was one afternoon in April, not long
ago, only the other day, and the shadows
had already begun to lengthen.
Bertrand Delmande, a fine, bright-looking
boy of fourteen years, fifteen, perhaps,
was mounted, and riding along a pleasant
country road, upon a little Creole pony,
such as boys in Louisiana usually ride when
they have nothing better at hand. He had
hunted, and carried his gun before him.
It is unpleasant to state that Bertrand
was not so depressed as he should have
been, in view of recent events that had come
about. Within the past week he had been
recalled from the college of Grand Coteau
to his home, the Bon-Accueil plantation.
He had found his father and his grand
mother depressed over money matters, await
ing certain legal developments that might
result in his permanent withdrawal from
school. That very day, directly after the
early dinner, the two had driven to town,
A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG. 231
on this very business, to be absent till the
late afternoon. Bertrand, then, had sad
dled Picayune and gone for a long jaunt,
such as his heart delighted in.
He was returning now, and had ap
proached the beginning of the great tan
gled Cherokee hedge that marked the
boundary line of Bon-Accueil, and that
twinkled with multiple white roses.
The pony started suddenly and violently
at something there in the turn of the road,
and just under the hedge. It looked like
a bundle of rags at first. But it was a
tramp, seated upon a broad, flat stone.
Bertrand had no maudlin consideration
for tramps as a species ; he had only that
morning driven from the place one who was
making himself unpleasant at the kitchen
But this tramp was old and feeble. His
beard was long, and as white as new-ginned
cotton, and when Bertrand saw him he was
engaged in stanching a wound in his bare
heel with a fistful of matted grass.
"What s wrong, old man?" asked the
The tramp looked up at him with a be
wildered glance, but did not answer.
232 A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG.
" Well," thought Bertrand, " since it s de
cided that I m to be a physician some day,
I can t begin to practice too early."
He dismounted, and examined the injured
foot. It had an ugly gash. Bertrand acted
mostly from impulse. Fortunately his im
pulses were not bad ones. So, nimbly, and
as quickly as he could manage it, he had
the old man astride Picayune, whilst he
himself was leading the pony down the
The dark green hedge towered like a high
and solid wall on one side. On the other
was a broad, open field, where here and
there appeared the flash and gleam of up
lifted, polished hoes, that negroes were ply
ing between the even rows of cotton and
" This is the State of Louisiana," uttered
the tramp, quaveringly.
"Yes, this is Louisiana," returned Ber
" Yes, I know it is. I Ve been in all of
them since Gettysburg. Sometimes it was
too hot, and sometimes it was too cold ; and
with that bullet in my head you don t re
member? No, you don t remember Gettys-
A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG. 233
"Well, no, not vividly," laughed Ber-
" Is it a hospital ? It is n t a factory,
is it? " the man questioned.
" Where we re going ? Why, no, it s the
Delmande plantation Bon-Accueil. Here
we are. Wait, I 11 open the gate."
This singular group entered the yard from
the rear, and not far from the house. A
big black woman, who sat just without a
cabin door, picking a pile of rusty-looking
moss, called out at sight of them :
" W at s dat you s bringin in dis yard,
boy? top dathoss?"
She received no reply. Bertrand, indeed,
took no notice of her inquiry.
" Fu a boy w at goes to school like you
does whar s yo sense ? " she went on,
with a fine show of indignation ; then, mut
tering to herself, " Ma ame Bertrand an
Marse St. Ange ain t gwine stan dat, I
knows dey ain t. Dah ! ef he ain t done
sot im on de gall ry, plumb down in his pa s
rockin -cheer ! "
Which the boy had done; seated the
tramp in a pleasant corner of the veranda,
while he went in search of bandages for his
234 A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG.
The servants showed high disapproval,
the housemaid following Bertrand into his
grandmother s room, whither he had carried
"Wat you tearin yo gra ma s closit to
pieces dat away, boy ? " she complained in
her high soprano.
" I m looking for bandages."
" Den w y you don t ax fu ban ges, an*
lef yo gra ma s closit lone? You want
to listen to me ; you gwine git shed o dat
tramp settin dah naxt to de dinm -room !
Wen de silva be missin , tain you w at
gwine git blame, it s me."
" The silver? Nonsense, Cindy; the
man s wounded, and can t you see he s out
of his head?"
" No mo outen his head an I is. T ain
me w at want to tres [trust] im wid de
sto -room key, ef he is outen his head," she
concluded with a disdainful shrug.
But Bertrand s protege proved so unap
proachable in his long-worn rags, that the
boy concluded to leave him unmolested till
his father s return, and then ask permission
to turn the forlorn creature into the bath
house, and array him afterward in clean,
A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG. 235
So there the old tramp sat in the veranda
corner, stolidly content, when St. Ange Del-
mande and his mother returned from town.
St. Ange was a dark, slender man of mid
dle age, with a sensitive face, and a plen
tiful sprinkle of gray in his thick black
hair ; his mother, a portly woman, and an
active one for her sixty-five years.
They were evidently in a despondent
mood. Perhaps it was for the cheer of her
sweet presence that they had brought with
them from town a little girl, the child of
Madame Delmande s only daughter, who
was married, and lived there.
Madame Delmande and her son were as
tonished to find so uninviting an intruder in
possession. But a few earnest words from
Bertrand reassured them, and partly recon
ciled them to the man s presence ; and it was
with wholly indifferent though not unkindly
glances that they passed him by when they
entered. On any large plantation there are
always nooks and corners where, for a night
or more, even such a man as this tramp
may be tolerated and given shelter.
When Bertrand went to bed that night,
he lay long awake thinking of the man, and
of what he had heard from his lips in the
236 A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG.
hushed starlight. The boy had heard of
the awfulness of Gettysburg, till it was like
something he could feel and quiver at.
On that field of battle this man had re
ceived a new and tragic birth. For all his
existence that went before was a blank to
him. There, in the black desolation of war,
he was born again, without friends or kin
dred ; without even a name he could know
was his own. Then he had gone forth a
wanderer; living more than half the time
in hospitals ; toiling when he could, starving
when he had to.
Strangely enough, he had addressed Ber-
trand as " St. Aiige," not once, but every
time he had spoken to him. The boy won
dered at this. Was it because he had heard
Madame Delmande address her son by that
name, and fancied it ?
So this nameless wanderer had drifted far
down to the plantation of Bon-Accueil, and
at last had found a human hand stretched
out to him in kindness.
When the family assembled at breakfast
on the following morning, the tramp was
already settled in the chair, and in the cor
ner which Bertrand s indulgence had made
familiar to him.
A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG. 237
If he had turned partly around, he would
have faced the flower garden, with its grav
eled walks and trim parterres, where a tan
gle of color and perfume were holding high
revelry this April morning; but he liked
better to gaze into the back yard, where
there was always movement : men and wo
men coming and going, bearing implements
of work ; little negroes in scanty garments,
darting here and there, and kicking up the
dust in their exuberance.
Madame Delmande could just catch a
glimpse of him through the long window
that opened to the floor, and near which he
Mr. Delmande had spoken to the man
pleasantly; but he and his mother were
wholly absorbed by their trouble, and talked
constantly of that, while Bertrand went back
and forth ministering to the old man s
wants. The boy knew that the servants
would have done the office with ill grace,
and he chose to be cup-bearer himself to the
unfortunate creature for whose presence he
alone was responsible.
Once, when Bertrand went out to him
with a second cup of coffee, steaming and
fragrant, the old man whispered :
238 A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG.
" What are they saying in there ? " point
ing over his shoulder to the dining-room.
" Oh, money troubles that will force us to
economize for a while," answered the boy.
"What father and me-mere feel worst about
is that I shall have to leave college now."
" No, no ! St. Ange must go to school.
The war s over, the war s over ! St. Ange
and Florentine must go to school."
" But if there s no money," the boy in
sisted, smiling like one who humors the va
garies of a child.
" Money ! money ! " murmured the tramp.
" The war s over money ! money ! "
His sleepy gaze had swept across the yard
into the thick of the orchard beyond, and
Suddenly he pushed aside the light table
that had been set before him, and rose,
clutching Bertrand s arm.
" St. Ange, you must go to school ! " he
whispered. " The war s over," looking fur
tively around. " Come. Don t let them
hear you. Don t let the negroes see us.
Get a spade the little spade that Buck
Williams was digging his cistern with."
Still clutching the boy, he dragged him
down the steps as he said this, and traversed
A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG. 239
the yard with long, limping strides, himself
leading the way.
From under a shed where such things
were to be found, Bertrand selected a spade,
since the tramp s whim demanded that he
should, and together they entered the or
The grass was thick and tufted here, and
wet with the morning dew. In long lines,
forming pleasant avenues between, were
peach-trees growing, and pear and apple and
plum. Close against the fe nce was the pome
granate hedge, with its waxen blossoms,
brick-red. Far down in the centre of the
orchard stood a huge pecan-tree, twice the
size of any other that was there, seeming to
rule like an old-time king.
Here Bertrand and his guide stopped.
The tramp had not once hesitated in his
movements since grasping the arm of his
young companion on the veranda. Now he
went and leaned his back against the pecan-
tree, where there was a deep knot, and look
ing steadily before him he took ten paces
forward. Turning sharply to the right, he
made five additional paces. Then pointing
his finger downward, and looking at Ber
trand, he commanded :
240 A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG.
" There, dig. I would do it myself, but
for my wounded foot. For I ve turned
many a spade of earth since Gettysburg.
Dig, St. Ange, dig ! The war s over ; you
must go to school."
Is there a boy of fifteen under the sun
who would not have dug, even knowing he
was following the insane dictates of a de
mented man? Bertrand entered with all
the zest of his years and his spirit into the
curious adventure ; and he dug and dug,
throwing great spadefuls of the rich, fra
grant earth from side to side.
The tramp, with body bent, and fingers
like claws clasping his bony knees, stood
watching with eager eyes, that never unfas
tened their steady gaze from the boy s rhyth
" That s it ! " he muttered at intervals.
" Dig, dig ! The war s over. You must go
to school, St. Ange."
Deep down in the earth, too deep for any
ordinary turning of the soil with spade or
plow to have reached it, was a box. It was
of tin, apparently, something larger than a
cigar box, and bound round and round with
twine, rotted now and eaten away in places.
The tramp showed no surprise at seeing
A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG. 241
it there ; he simply knelt upon the ground
and lifted it from its long resting place.
Bertrand had let the spade fall from his
hands, and was quivering with the awe of
the .thing he saw. Who could this wizard
be that had come to him in the guise of a
tramp, that walked in cabalistic paces upon
his own father s ground, and pointed his fin
ger like a divining-rod to the spot where
boxes may be treasures lay ? It was like
a page from a wonder-book.
And walking behind this white-haired old
man, who was again leading the way, some
thing of childish superstition crept back into
Bertrand s heart. It was the same feeling
with which he had often sat, long ago, in the
weird firelight of some negro s cabin, listen
ing to tales of witches who came in the night
to work uncanny spells at their will.
Madame Delmande had never abandoned
the custom of washing her own silver and
dainty china. She sat, when the breakfast
was over, with a pail of warm suds before
her that Cindy had brought to her, with an
abundance of soft linen cloths. Her little
granddaughter stood beside her playing, as
babies will, with the bright spoons and forks,
and ranging them in rows on the polished
242 A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG.
mahogany. St. Ange was at the window
making entries in a note-book, and frowning
gloomily as he did so.
The group in the dining-room were so em
ployed when the old tramp came staggering
in, Bertrand close behind him.
He went and stood at the foot of the table,
opposite to where Madame Delmande sat,
and let fall the box upon it.
The thing in falling shattered, and from
its bursting sides gold came, clicking, spin
ning, gliding, some of it like oil; rolling
along the table and off it to the floor, but
heaped up, the bulk of it, before the tramp.
" Here s money ! " he called out, plung
ing his old hand in the thick of it. " Who
says St. Ange shall not go to school ? The
war s over here s money ! St. Ange, my
boy," turning to Bertrand and speaking with
quick authority, "tell Buck Williams to
hitch Black Bess to the buggy, and go bring
Judge Parkerson here."
Judge Parkerson, indeed, who had been
dead for twenty years and more !
" Tell him that that " and the hand
that was not in the gold went up to the with
ered forehead, " that Bertrand Delmande
needs him ! "
A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG. 243
Madame Delmande, at sight of the man
with his box and his gold, had given a sharp
cry, such as might follow the plunge of a
knife. She lay now in her son s arms, pant
" Your father, St. Ange, come back
from the dead your father ! "
" Be calm, mother ! " the man implored.
" You had such sure proof of his death in
that terrible battle, this may not be he."
" I know him ! I know your father, my
son ! " and disengaging herself from the arms
that held her, she dragged herself as a
wounded serpent might to where the old
His hand was still in the gold, and on his
face was yet the flush which had come there
when he shouted out the name Bertrand
" Husband," she gasped, " do you know
me your wife ? "
The little girl was playing gleefully with
the yellow coin.
Bertrand stood, pulseless almost, like a
young Action cut in marble.
When the old man had looked long into
the woman s imploring face, he made a
244 A WIZARD FROM GETTYSBURG.
" Madame," he said, " an old soldier,
wounded on the field of Gettysburg, craves
for himself and his two little children your
MA AME P^LAGIE.
WHEN the war began, there stood on
C6te Joyeuse an imposing mansion of red
brick, shaped like the Pantheon. A grove
of majestic live-oaks surrounded it.
Thirty years later, only the thick walls
were standing, with the dull red brick show
ing here and there through a matted growth
of clinging vines. The huge round pillars
were intact ; so to some extent was the
stone flagging of hall and portico. There
had been no home so stately along the whole
stretch of Cote Joyeuse. Every one knew
that, as they knew it had cost Philippe Val-
met sixty thousand dollars to build, away
back in 1840. No one was in danger of
forgetting that fact, so long as his daughter
Pelagic survived. She was a queenly, white-
haired woman of fifty. " Ma ame Pelagie,"
they called her, though she was unmarried,
as was her sister Pauline, a child in Ma ame
Pelagie s eyes ; a child of thirty-five.
246 MA AME PELAGIE.
The two lived alone in a three-roomed
cabin, almost within the shadow of the ruin.
They lived for a dream, for Ma ame Pela-
gie s dream, which was to rebuild the old
It would be pitiful to tell how their days
were spent to accomplish this end ; how the
dollars had been saved for thirty years and
the picayunes hoarded ; and yet, not half
enough gathered ! But Ma ame Pelagie
felt sure of twenty years of life before her,
and counted upon as many more for her
sister. And what could not come to pass
in twenty in forty years ?
Often, of pleasant afternoons, the two
would drink their black coffee, seated upon
the stone-flagged portico whose canopy was
the blue sky of Louisiana. They loved to
sit there in the silence, with only each other
and the sheeny, prying lizards for company,
talking of the old times and planning for
the new ; while light breezes stirred the tat
tered vines high up among the columns,
where owls nested.
" We can never hope to have all just as
it was, Pauline," Ma ame Pelagie would
say ; " perhaps the marble pillars of the
salon will have to be replaced by wooden
MA AME PELAGIE. 247
ones, and the crystal candelabra left out.
Should you be willing, Pauline ? "
" Oh, yes, Sesoeur, I shall be willing." It
was always, " Yes, Sesoeur," or " No, Se
soeur," " Just as you please, Sesoeur," with
poor little Mam selle Pauline. For what
did she remember of that old life and that
old splendor ? Only a faint gleam here and
there ; the half -consciousness of a young,
uneventful existence ; and then a great
crash. That meant the nearness of war ;
the revolt of slaves ; confusion ending in
fire and flame through which she was borne
safely in the strong arms of Pelagie, and
carried to the log cabin which was still their
home. Their brother, Leandre, had known
more of it* all than Pauline, and not so
much as Pelagie. He had left the manage
ment of the big plantation with all its mem
ories and traditions to his older sister, and
had gone away to dwell in cities. That was
many years ago. Now, Leandre s business
called him frequently and upon long jour
neys from home, and his motherless daugh
ter was coming to stay with her aunts at
They talked about it, sipping their coffee
on the ruined portico. Mam selle Pauline
248 MAAME PELAGIE.
was terribly excited ; the flush that throbbed
into her pale, nervous face showed it ; and
she locked her thin fingers in and out in
" But what shall we do with La Petite,
Sesoeur ? Where shall we put her ? How
shall we amuse her? Ah, Seigneur ! "
" She will sleep upon a cot in the room
next to ours," responded Ma ame Pelagie,
" and live as we do. She knows how we
live, and why we live ; her father has told
her. She knows we have money and could
squander it if we chose. Do not fret, Paul
ine; let us hope La Petite is a true Val-
Then Ma ame Pelagie rose with stately
deliberation and went to saddle* her horse,
for she had yet to make her last daily round
through the fields ; and Mam selle Pauline
threaded her way slowly among the tangled
grasses toward the cabin.
The coming of La Petite, bringing with
her as she did the pungent atmosphere of
an outside and dimly known world, was a
shock to these two, living their dream-life.
The girl was quite as tall as her aunt Pela
gie, with dark eyes that reflected joy as a
still pool reflects the light of stars ; and her
MA*AME PELAGIE. 249
rounded cheek was tinged like the pink
crepe myrtle. Mam selle Pauline kissed
her and trembled. Ma ame Pelagie looked
into her eyes with a searching gaze, which
seemed to seek a likeness of the past in the
And they made room between them for
this young life.
La Petite had determined upon trying to
fit herself to the strange, narrow existence
which she knew awaited her at Cote Joy-
euse. It went well enough at first. Some
times she followed Ma ame Pelagie into the
fields to note how the cotton was opening,
ripe and white ; or to count the ears of corn
upon the hardy stalks. But oftener she was
with her aunt Pauline, assisting in house
hold offices, chattering of her brief past, or
walking with the older woman arm-in-arm
under the trailing moss of the giant oaks.
Mam selle Pauline s steps grew very buoy
ant that summer, and her eyes were some
times as bright as a bird s, unless La Petite
were away from her side, when they would
lose all other light but one of uneasy expec
tancy. The girl seemed to love her well
250 MAAME PELAGIE.
in return, and called her endearingly Tan -
tante. But as the time went by, La Petite
became very quiet, not listless, but
thoughtful, and slow in her movements.
Then her cheeks began to pale, till they
were tinged like the creamy plumes of the
white crepe myrtle that grew in the ruin.
One day when she sat within its shadow,
between her aunts, holding a hand of each,
she said : " Tante Pelagie, I must tell you
something, you and Tan tante." She spoke
low, but clearly and firmly. " I love you
both, please remember that I love you
both. But I must go away from you. I
can t live any longer here at Cote Joyeuse."
A spasm passed through Mam selle Paul
ine s delicate frame. La Petite could feel
the twitch of it in the wiry fingers that were
intertwined with her own. Ma ame Pelagie
remained unchanged and motionless. No
human eye could penetrate so deep as to see
the satisfaction which her soul felt. She
said : " What do you mean, Petite ? Your
father has sent you to us, and I am sure it
is his wish that you remain."
" My father loves me, tante Pe*lagie, and
such will not be his wish when he knows.
Oh ! " she continued with a restless move-
MA AME PELAGIE. 251
ment, " it is as though a weight were press
ing me backward here. I must live another
life ; the life I lived before. I want to know
things that are happening from day to day
over the world, and hear them talked about.
I want my music, my books, my companions.
If I had known no other life but this one of
privation, I suppose it would be different.
If I had to live this life, I should make the
best of it. But I do not have to ; and you
know, tante Pelagie, you do not need to. It
seems to me," she added in a whisper, " that
it is a sin against myself. Ah, Tan tante !
what is the matter with Tan tante ? "
It was nothing; only a slight feeling of
faintness, that would soon pass. She en
treated them to take no notice ; but they
brought her some water and fanned her with
a palmetto leaf.
But that night, in the stillness of the
room, Mam selle Pauline sobbed and would
not be comforted. Ma ame Pelagie took
her in her arms.
" Pauline, my little sister Pauline," she
entreated, " I never have seen you like this
before. Do you no longer love me ? Have
we not been happy together, you and I? "
" Oh, yes, Sesoeur."
252 MA AME PELAGIE.
" Is it because La Petite is going away?"
" Yes, Sesoeur."
" Then she is dearer to you than I ! "
spoke Ma ame Pelagie with sharp resent
ment. " Than I, who held you and warmed
you in my arms the day you were born ;
than I, your mother, father, sister, every
thing that could cherish you. Pauline, don t
tell me that."
Mam selle Pauline tried to talk through
"I can t explain it to you, Sesoeur. I
don t understand it myself. I love you as I
have always loved you ; next to God. But
if La Petite goes away I shall die. I can t
understand, help me, Sesoeur. She seems
she seems like a saviour ; like one who
had come and taken me by the hand and
was leading me somewhere somewhere I
want to go."
Ma ame Pelagie had been sitting beside
the bed in her peignoir and slippers. She
held the hand of her sister who lay there,
and smoothed down the woman s soft brown
hair. She said not a word, and the silence
was broken only by Ma mselle Pauline s
continued sobs. Once Ma ame Pelagie arose
to drink of orange-flower water, which she
MA AME PELAGIE. 253
gave to her sister, as she would have offered
it to a nervous, fretful child. Almost an
hour passed before Ma ame Pelagie spoke
again. Then she said :
" Pauline, you must cease that sobbing,
now, and sleep. You will make yourself ill.
La Petite will not go away. Do you hear
me? Do you understand? She will stay,
I promise you."
Mam selle Pauline could not clearly com
prehend, but she had great faith in the word
of her sister, and soothed by the promise
and the touch of Ma ame Pelagie s strong,
gentle hand, she fell asleep.
Ma ame Pelagie, when she saw that her
sister slept, arose noiselessly and stepped
outside upon the low-roofed narrow gallery.
She did not linger there, but with a step
that was hurried and agitated, she crossed
the distance that divided her cabin from the
The night was not a dark one, for the sky
was clear and the moon resplendent. But
light or dark would have made no difference
to Ma ame Pelagie. It was not the first
time she had stolen away to the ruin at
254 MADAME PELAGIE.
night-time, when the whole plantation slept ;
but she never before had been there with a
heart so nearly broken. She was going there
for the last time to dream her dreams ; to
see the visions that hitherto had crowded
her days and nights, and to bid them fare
There was the first of them, awaiting her
upon the very portal ; a robust old white-
haired man, chiding her for returning home
so late. There are guests to be entertained.
Does she not know it? Guests from the
city and from the near plantations. Yes,
she knows it is late. She had been abroad
with Felix, and they did not notice how the
time was speeding. Felix is there ; he will
explain it all. He is there beside her, but
she does not want to hear what he will tell
Ma ame Pelagic had sunk upon the bench
where she and her sister so often came to
sit. Turning, she gazed in through the gap
ing chasm of the window at her side. The
interior of the ruin is ablaze. Not with the
moonlight, for that is faint beside the other
one the sparkle from the crystal cande
labra, which negroes, moving noiselessly and
respectfully about, are lighting, one after
MA AME PELAGIE. 255
the other. How the gleam of them reflects
and glances from the polished marble pil
The room holds a number of guests.
There is old Monsieur Lucien Santien, lean
ing against one of the pillars, and laugh
ing at something which Monsieur Lafirme
is telling him, till his fat shoulders shake.
His son Jules is with him -Jules, who
wants to marry her. She laughs. She
wonders if Felix has told her father yet.
There is young Jerome Lafirme playing at
checkers upon the sofa with Leandre. Little
Pauline stands annoying them and disturb
ing the game. Leandre reproves her. She
begins to cry, and old black Clementine, her
nurse, who is not far off, limps across the
room to pick her up and carry her away.
How sensitive the little one is ! But she
trots about and takes care of herself better
than she did a year or two ago, when she
fell upon the stone hall floor and raised a
great " bo-bo " on her forehead. Pelagie
was hurt and angry enough about it ; and
she ordered rugs and buffalo robes to be
brought and laid thick upon the tiles, till
the little one s steps were surer.
" II ne faut pas faire mal a Pauline."
256 MA AME PELAGIE.
She was saying it aloud " faire mal a
But she gazes beyond the salon, back into
the big dining hall, where the white crepe
myrtle grows. Ha ! how low that bat has
circled. It has struck Ma ame Pelagie full
on the breast. She does not know it. She
is beyond there in the dining hall, where
her father sits with a group of friends over
their wine. As usual they are talking pol
itics. How tiresome ! She has heard them
say " la guerre " oftener than once. La
guerre. Bah ! She and Felix have some
thing pleasanter to talk about, out under
the oaks, or back in the shadow of the
But they were right ! The sound of a
cannon, shot at Sumter, has rolled across
the Southern States, and its echo is heard
along the whole stretch of Cote Joyeuse.
Yet Pelagie does not believe it. Not till
La Ricaneuse stands before her with bare,
black arms akimbo, uttering a volley of vile
abuse and of brazen impudence. Pelagie
wants to kill her. But yet she will not be
lieve. Not till Felix comes to her in the cham
ber above the dining hall there where that
trumpet vine hangs comes to say good-by
MA AME PELAGIE. 257
to her. The hurt which the big brass but
tons of his new gray uniform pressed into
the tender flesh of her bosom has never left
it. She sits upon the sofa, and he beside
her, both speechless with pain. That room
would not have been altered. Even the
sofa would have been there in the same
spot, and Ma ame Pelagie had meant all
along, for thirty years, all along, to lie there
upon it some day when the time came to
But there is no time to weep, with the
enemy at the door. The door has been no
barrier. They are clattering through the
halls now, drinking the wines, shattering the
crystal and glass, slashing the portraits.
One of them stands before her and tells
her to leave the house. She slaps his face.
How the stigma stands out red as blood
upon his blanched cheek !
Now there is a roar of fire and the flames
are bearing down upon her motionless fig
ure. She wants to show them how a daugh
ter of Louisiana can perish before her con
querors. But little Pauline clings to her
knees in an agony of terror. Little Pauline
must be saved.
" II ne faut pas faire mal a Pauline."
258 MA AME PELAG1E.
Again she is saying it aloud " faire mal
The night was nearly spent ; Ma ame Pe-
lagie had glided from the bench upon which
she had rested, and for hours lay prone upon
the stone flagging, motionless. When she
dragged herself to her feet it was to walk
like one in a dream. About the great, sol
emn pillars, one after the other, she reached
her arms, and pressed her cheek and her lips
upon the senseless brick.
" Adieu, adieu ! " whispered Ma ame Pe-
There was no longer the moon to guide
her steps across the familiar pathway to the
cabin. The brightest light in the sky was
Venus, that swung low in the east. The
bats had ceased to beat their wings about
the ruin. Even the mocking-bird that had
warbled for hours in the old mulberry-tree
had sung himself asleep. That darkest
hour before the day was mantling the earth.
Ma ame Pelagie hurried through the wet,
clinging grass, beating aside the heavy moss
that swept across her face, walking on to
ward the cabin toward Pauline. Not
once did she look back upon the ruin that
MAAME PELAGIE. 259
brooded like a huge monster a black spot
in the darkness that enveloped it.
Little more than a year later the trans
formation which the old Valmet place had
undergone was the talk and wonder of Cote
Joyeuse. One would have looked in vain
for the ruin ; it was no longer there ; neither
was the log cabin. But out in the open,
where the sun shone upon it, and the breezes
blew about it, was a shapely structure fash
ioned from woods that the forests of the
State had furnished. It rested upon a solid
foundation of brick.
Upon a corner of the pleasant gallery sat
Leandre smoking his afternoon cigar, and
chatting with neighbors who had called.
This was to be his pied a terre now ; the
home where his sisters and his daughter
dwelt. The laughter of young people was
heard out under the trees, and within the
house where La Petite was playing upon
the piano. With the enthusiasm of a young
artist she drew from the keys strains that
seemed marvelously beautiful to Mam selle
Pauline, who stood enraptured near her.
Mam selle Pauline had been touched by the
260 MA .AME PELAGIE.
re-creation of Valmet. Her cheek was as
full and almost as flushed as La Petite s.
The years were falling away from her.
Ma ame Pelagie had been conversing with
her brother and his friends. Then she
turned and walked away ; stopping to listen
awhile to the music which La Petite was
making. But it was only for a moment.
She went on around the curve of the ve
randa, where she found herself alone. She
stayed there, erect, holding to the banister
rail and looking out calmly in the distance
across the fields.
She was dressed in black, with the white
kerchief she always wore folded across her
bosom. Her thick, glossy hair rose like a
silver diadem from her brow. In her deep,
dark eyes smouldered the light of fires that
would never flame. She had grown very
old. Years instead of months seemed to
have passed over her since the night she bade
farewell to her visions.
Poor Ma ame Pelagie ! How could it be
different ! While the outward pressure of
a young and joyous existence had forced her
footsteps into the light, her soul had stayed
in the shadow of the ruin.
AT THE CADIAN BALL.
that big, brown, good-natured
Bobinot, had no intention of going to the
ball, even though he knew Calixta would
be there. For what came of those balls
but heartache, and a sickening disinclina
tion for work the whole week through, till
Saturday night came again and his tortures
began afresh? Why could he not love
Ozeina, who would marry him to-morrow ;
or Fronie, or any one of a dozen others,
rather than that little Spanish vixen? Ca-
lixta s slender foot had never touched Cuban
soil ; but her mother s had, and the Spanish
was in her blood all the same. For that
reason the prairie people forgave her much
that they would not have overlooked in
their own daughters or sisters.
Her eyes, Bobinot thought of her eyes,
and weakened, the bluest, the drowsiest,
most tantalizing that ever looked into a
man s ; he thought of her flaxen hair that
kinked worse than a mulatto s close to her
262 AT THE CADI AN BALL.
head ; that broad, smiling mouth and tip-
tilted nose, that full figure ; that voice like
a rich contralto song, with cadences in it
that must have been taught by Satan, for
there was no one else to teach her tricks on
that Cadian prairie. Bobinot thought of
them all as he plowed his rows of cane.
There had even been a breath of scan
dal whispered about her a year ago, when
she went to Assumption, but why talk of
it ? No one did now. " C est Espagnol,
$a," most of them said with lenient shoul
der-shrugs. "Bon chien tient de race,"
the old men mumbled over their pipes,
stirred by recollections. Nothing was made
of it, except that Fronie threw it up to Ca-
lixta when the two quarreled and fought
on the church steps after mass one Sunday,
about a lover. Calixta swore roundly in
fine Cadian French and with true Spanish
spirit, and slapped Fronie s face. Fronie
had slapped her back ; " Tiens, bocotte, va ! "
" Espece de lionese ; prends ca, et c,a ! "
till the cure himself was obliged to hasten
and make peace between them. Bobinot
thought of it all, and would not go to the
But in the afternoon, over at Friedhei-
AT THE CADI AN BALL. 263
mer s store, where he was buying a trace-
chain, he heard some one say that Alcee
Laballiere would be there. Then wild
horses could not have kept him away. He
knew how it would be or rather he did
not know how it would be if the hand
some young planter came over to the ball
as he sometimes did. If Alcee happened to
be in a serious mood, he might only go to
the card-room and play a round or two ;
or he might stand out on the galleries talk
ing crops and politics with the old people.
But there was no telling. A drink or two
could put the devil in his head, that was
what Bobinot said to himself, as he wiped
the sweat from his brow with his red ban
danna ; a gleam from Calixta s eyes, a flash
of her ankle, a twirl of her skirts could do
the same. Yes, Bobinot would go to the
That was the year Alcee Laballiere put
nine hundred acres in rice. It was putting
a good deal of money into the ground, but
the returns promised to be glorious. Old
Madame Laballiere, sailing about the spa
cious galleries in her white volante, figured
it all out in her head. Clarisse, her god-
264 AT THE CADIAN BALL.
daughter, helped her a little, and together
they built more air-castles than enough.
Aleee worked like a mule that time ; and if
he did not kill himself, it was because his
constitution was an iron one. It was an
every-day affair for him to come in from
the field well-nigh exhausted, and wet to the
waist. He did not mind if there were visi
tors ; he left them to his mother and Cla-
risse. There were often guests : young men
and women who came up from the city,
which was but a few hours away, to visit
his beautiful kinswoman. She was worth
going a good deal farther than that to see.
Dainty as a lily ; hardy as a sunflower ;
slim, tall, graceful, like one of the reeds
that grew in the marsh. Cold and kind
and cruel by turn, and everything that was
aggravating to Alcee.
He would have liked to sweep the place
of those visitors, often. Of the men, above
all, with their ways and their manners ;
their swaying of fans like women, and dand
ling about hammocks. He could have pitched
them over the levee into the river, if it
hadn t meant murder. That was Alcee.
But he must have been crazy the day he
came in from the rice-field, and, toil-stained
AT THE CADI AN BALL. 265
as he was, clasped Clarisse by the arms and
panted a volley of hot, blistering love-words
into her face. No man had ever spoken
love to her like that.
" Monsieur ! " she exclaimed, looking him
full in the eyes, without a quiver. Alcee s
hands dropped and his glance wavered be
fore the chill of her calm, clear eyes.
"Par exemple ! " she muttered disdain
fully, as she turned from him, deftly adjust
ing the careful toilet that he had so brutally
That happened a day or two before the
cyclone came that cut into the rice like fine
steel. It was an awful thing, coming so
swiftly, without a moment s w r arning in
which to light a holy candle or set a piece
of blessed palm burning. Old madame
wept openly and said her beads, just as her
son Didier, the New Orleans one, would have
done. If such a thing had happened to
Alphonse, the Laballiere planting cotton up
in Natchitoches, he would have raved and
stormed like a second cyclone, and made his
surroundings unbearable for a day or two.
But Alcee took the misfortune differently.
He looked ill and gray after it, and said
nothing. His speechlessness was frightful.
266 AT THE CADI AN BALL.
Clarisse s heart melted with tenderness ; but
when she offered her soft, purring words
of condolence, he accepted them with mute
indifference. Then she and her nenaine
wept afresh in each other s arms.
A night or two later, when Clarisse went
to her window to kneel there in the moon
light and say her prayers before retiring,
she saw that Bruce, Alcee s negro servant,
had led his master s saddle-horse noiselessly
along the edge of the sward that bordered
the gravel-path, and stood holding him near
by. Presently, she heard Alcee quit his
room, which was beneath her own, and trav
erse the lower portico. As he emerged
from the shadow and crossed the strip of
moonlight, she perceived that he carried a
pair of well-filled saddle-bags which he at
once flung across the animal s back. He
then lost no time in mounting, and after a
brief exchange of words with Bruce, went
cantering away, taking no precaution to
avoid the noisy gravel as the negro had
Clarisse had never suspected that it might
be Alcee s custom to sally forth from the
plantation secretly, and at such an hour;
for it was nearly midnight. And had it not
AT THE CADI AN BALL. 267
been for the telltale saddle-bags, she would
only have crept to bed, to wonder, to fret
and dream unpleasant dreams. But her
impatience and anxiety would not be held
in check. Hastily unbolting the shutters of
her door that opened upon the gallery, she
stepped outside and called softly to the old
" Gre t Peter ! Miss Clarisse. I was n
sho it was a ghos o w at, stan in up dah,
plumb in de night, data way."
He mounted halfway up the long, broad
flight of stairs. She was standing at the top.
" Bruce, w ere has Monsieur Alcee gone ? "
" Wy, he gone bout he business, I
reckin," replied Bruce, striving to be non
committal at the outset.
a W ere has Monsieur Alcee gone ? " she
reiterated, stamping her bare foot. " I
won t stan any nonsense or any lies ; mine,
" I don ric lic ez I eva tole you lie yit,
Miss Clarisse. Mista Alcee, he all broke
" Were has he gone ? Ah, Sainte
Vierge ! faut de la patience ! butor, va ! "
" Wen I was in he room, a-breshin off he
268 AT THE CADIAN BALL.
clo es to-day," the darkey began, settling
himself against the stair-rail, " he look dat
speechless an down, I say, You pear tu
me like some pussun w at gwine have a spell
o sickness, Mista Aleee. He say, You
reckin ? I dat he git up, go look hisse f
stiddy in de glass. Den he go to de chimbly
an jerk up de quinine bottle an po a gre t
hoss-dose on to he han . An he swalla dat
mess in a wink, an wash hit down wid a big
dram o w iskey w at he keep in he room,
aginst he come all soppin wet outen de fiel .
" He lows, No, I ain gwine be sick,
Bruce. Den he square off. He say, I kin
mak out to stan up an gi an take wid any
man I knows, lessen hit s John L. Sulvuii.
But w en God A mighty an a oman jines
fo ces agin me, dat s one too many fur me.
I tell im, Jis so, whils I se makin out to
bresh a spot off w at ain dah, on he coat
colla. I tell im, You wants li le res , suh.
He say, No, I wants li le fling ; dat w at I
wants ; an I gwine git it. Pitch me a fis ful
o clo es in dem ar saddle-bags. Dat w at
he say. Don t you bodda, missy. He jis
gone a-caperin yonda to de Cajun ball. Uh
uh de skeeters is fair a-swarmin like
bees roun yo foots ! "
AT THE CADIAN BALL. 269
The mosquitoes were indeed attacking
Clarisse s white feet savagely. She had un
consciously been alternately rubbing one foot
over the other during the darkey s recital.
" The Cadian ball," she repeated con-
temptously. " Humph ! Par exemple !
Nice conduc for a Laballiere. An he
needs a saddle-bag, fill with clothes, to go
to the Cadian ball ! "
" Oh, Miss Clarisse ; you go on to bed,
chile ; git yo soun sleep. He low he come
back in couple weeks o so. I kiarn be re-
peatin lot o truck w at young mans say,
out heah face o a young gal."
Clarisse said no more, but turned and ab
ruptly reentered the house.
" You done talk too much wid yo mouf
a ready, you ole fool nigga, you," muttered
Bruce to himself as he walked away.
Alce e reached the ball very late, of course
too late for the chicken gumbo which had
been served at midnight.
The big, low-ceiled room they called it
a hall was packed with men and women
dancing to the music of three fiddles. There
were broad galleries all around it. There
was a room at one side where sober-faced
AT THE ACADIAN BALL.
men were playing cards. Another, in which
babies were sleeping, was called le pare aux
petits. Any one who is white may go to a
Cadian ball, but he must pay for his lemon
ade, his coffee and chicken gumbo. And he
must behave himself like a Cadian. Gros-
boeuf was giving this ball. He had been giv
ing them since he was a young man, and he
was a middle-aged one, now. In that time
he could recall but one disturbance, and that
was caused by American railroaders, who
were not in touch with their surroundings
and had no business there. " Ces maudits
gens du raiderode," Grosboeuf called them.
Alcee Laballiere s presence at the ball
caused a flutter even among the men, who
could not but admire his " nerve " after such
misfortune befalling him. To be sure, they
knew the Laballieres were rich that there
were resources East, and more again in the
city. But they felt it took a brave homme
to stand a blow like that philosophically.
One old gentleman, who was in the habit of
reading a Paris newspaper and knew things,
chuckled gleefully to everybody that Alcee s
conduct was altogether chic, mais chic.
That he had more panache than Boulanger.
Well, perhaps he had.
AT THE CADI AN BALL. 271
But what he did not show outwardly
was that he was in a mood for ugly things
to-night. Poor Bobin6t alone felt it vaguely.
He discerned a gleam of it in Alcee s hand
some eyes, as the young planter stood in
the doorway, looking with rather feverish
glance upon tlie assembly, while he laughed
and talked with a Cadian farmer who was
Bobindt himself was dull-looking and
clumsy. Most of the men were. But the
young women were very beautiful. The
eyes that glanced into AlceVs as they
passed him were big, dark, soft as those of
the young heifers standing out in the cool
But the belle was Calixta. Her white
dress was not nearly so handsome or well
made as Fronie s (she and Fronie had quite
forgotten the battle on the church steps,
and were friends again), nor were her slip
pers so stylish as those of Ozeina ; and she
fanned herself with a handkerchief, since
she had broken her red fan at the last ball,
and her aunts and uncles were not willing
to give her another. But all the men agreed
she was at her best to-night. Such anima
tion ! and abandon ! such flashes of wit !
272 AT THE CADI AN BALL.
" He, Bobindt ! Mais w at s the matta ?
Wat you standin plante la like ole Ma ame
Tina s cow in the bog, you ? "
That was good. That was an excellent
thrust at Bobinot, who had forgotten the
figure of the dance with his mind bent on
other things, and it started a clamor of
laughter at his expense. He joined good-
naturedly. It was better to receive even
such notice as that from Calixta than none
at all. But Madame Suzoiine, sitting in
a corner, whispered to her neighbor that if
Ozeina were to conduct herself in a like man
ner, she should immediately be taken out to
the mule-cart and driven home. The women
did not always approve of Calixta.
Now and then were short lulls in the
dance, when couples flocked out upon the
galleries for a brief respite and fresh air.
The moon had gone down pale in the west,
and in the east was yet no promise of day.
After such an interval, when the dancers
again assembled to resume the interrupted
quadrille, Calixta was not among them.
She was sitting upon a bench out in the
shadow, with Alcee beside her. They were
acting like fools. He had attempted to take
a little gold ring from her finger ; just for
AT THE ACADIAN BALL. 273
the fun of it, for there was nothing he could
have done with the ring but replace it again.
But she clinched her hand tight. He pre
tended that it was a very difficult matter to
open it. Then he kept the hand in his.
They seemed to forget about it. He played
with her ear-ring, a thin crescent of gold
hanging from her small brown ear. He
caught a wisp of the kinky hair that had
escaped its fastening, and rubbed the ends
of it against his shaven cheek.
"You know, last year in Assumption,
Calixta?" They belonged to the younger
generation, so preferred to speak English.
"Don t come say Assumption to me,
M sieur Alcee. I done yeard Assumption
till I m plumb sick."
" Yes, I know. The idiots ! Because you
were in Assumption, and I happened to go
to Assumption, they must have it that we
went together. But it was nice hein^
Calixta ? in Assumption ? "
They saw Bobinot emerge from the hall
and stand a moment outside the lighted
doorway, peering uneasily and searchingly
into the darkness. He did not see them,
and went slowly back.
" There is Bobinot looking for you. You
274 AT THE CAD I AN BALL.
are going to set poor Bobinot crazy. You 11
marry him some day ; hein, Calixta ? "
" I don t say no, me," she replied, striving
to withdraw her hand, which he held more
firmly for the attempt.
" But come, Calixta ; you know you said
you would go back to Assumption, just to
"No, I neva said that, me. You mus
" Oh, I thought you did. You know I m
going down to the city."
" Betta make has e, then ; it s mos day."
" Well, to-morrow 11 do."
" Wat you goin do, yonda ? "
" I don t know. Drown myself in the
lake, maybe ; unless you go down there to
visit your uncle."
Calixta s senses were reeling ; and they
well-nigh left her when she felt Alcee s lips
brush her ear like the touch of a rose.
"Mista Alcee! Is dat Mista Alcee?"
the thick voice of a negro was asking ; he
stood on the ground, holding to the banister-
rails near which the couple sat.
"Wat do you want now?" cried Alcee
AT THE CADIAN BALL. 275
impatiently. " Can t I have a moment of
peace ? "
" I ben huntin you high an low, suh,"
answered the man. " Dey dey some one
in de road, onda de mulbare-tree, want see
you a minute."
" I would n t go out to the road to see the
Angel Gabriel. And if you come back here
with any more talk, I 11 have to break your
neck." The negro turned mumbling away.
Alcee and Calixta laughed softly about it.
Her boisterousness was all gone. They
talked low, and laughed softly, as lovers do.
" Alcee ! Alcee Laballiere ! "
It was not the negro s voice this time ; but
one that went through Alcee s body like an
electric shock, bringing him to his feet.
Clarisse was standing there in her riding-
habit, where the negro had stood. For an
instant confusion reigned in Alcee s thoughts,
as with one who awakes suddenly from a
dream. But he felt that something of se
rious import had brought his cousin to the
ball in the dead of night.
"Wat does this mean, Clarisse?" he
" It means something has happen at
home. You mus come."
276 AT THE CADIAN BALL.
" Happened to maman ? " he questioned,
" No ; nenaine is well, and asleep. It is
something else. Not to frighten you. But
you mus come. Come with me, Alcee."
There was no need for the imploring note.
He would have followed the voice anywhere.
She had now recognized the girl sitting
back on the bench.
" Ah, c est vous, Calixta ? Comment ca
va, mon enfant ? "
" Tcha va b en ; et vous, mam zelle ? "
Alcee swung himself over the low rail and
started to follow Clarisse, without a word,
without a glance back at the girl. He had
forgotten he was leaving her there. But
Clarisse whispered something to him, and
he turned back to say " Good-night, Calixta,"
and offer his hand to press through the rail
ing. She pretended not to see it.
" How come that ? You settin yere by
yo se f , Calixta ? " It was Bobinot who had
found her there alone. The dancers had not
yet come out. She looked ghastly in the
faint, gray light struggling out of the east.
" Yes, that s me. Go yonda in the pare
aux petits an ask Aunt Olisse fu my hat.
AT THE CADIAN BALL. 277
She knows w ere t is. I want to go home,
" How you came ? "
"I come afoot, with the Cateaus. But
I m goin now. I ent goin wait fu em.
I m plumb wo out, me."
" Kin I go with you, Calixta ?"
" I don care."
They went together across the open prairie
and along the edge of the fields, stumbling
in the uncertain light. He told her to lift
her dress that was getting wet and bedrag
gled ; for she was pulling at the weeds and
grasses with her hands.
" I don care ; it s got to go in the tub,
anyway. You been sayin all along you
want to marry me, Bobinot. Well, if you
want, yet, I don care, me."
The glow of a sudden and overwhelming
happiness shone out in the brown, rugged
face of the young Acadian. He could not
speak, for very joy. It choked him.
"Oh well, if you don want," snapped
Calixta, flippantly, pretending to be piqued
at his silence.
" Bon Dieu ! You know that makes me
crazy, w at you sayin . You mean that,
Calixta ? You ent goin turn roun agin ? "
278 AT THE ACADIAN BALL.
" I neva tole you that much yet, Bobinot.
I mean that. Tiens" and she held out her
hand in the business-like manner of a man
who clinches a bargain with a hand-clasp.
Bobinot grew bold with happiness and asked
Calixta to kiss him. She turned her face,
that was almost ugly after the night s dissi
pation, and looked steadily into his.
" I don want to kiss you, Bobinot," she
said, turning away again, " not to-day. Some
other time. Bonte divine ! ent you satisfy,
" Oh, I m satisfy, Calixta," he said.
Riding through a patch of wood, Clarisse s
saddle became ungirted, and she and Alcee
dismounted to readjust it.
For the twentieth time he asked her what
had happened at home.
" But, Clarisse, w at is it ? Is it a mis
fortune ? "
" Ah Dieu sait ! " It s only something
that happen to me."
" To you ! "
" I saw you go away las night, Alcee,
with those saddle-bags," she said, haltingly,
striving to arrange something about the sad
dle, u an I made Bruce tell me. He said
AT THE CADI AN BALL. 279
you had gone to the ball, an wouldn be
home for weeks an weeks. I thought,
Alcee maybe you were going to to As
sumption. I got wild. An then I knew
if you did n t come back, now, to-night, I
could n t stan it, again."
She had her face hidden in her arm that
she was resting against the saddle when she
He began to wonder if this meant love.
But she had to tell him so, before he be
lieved it. And when she told him, he
thought the face of the Universe was changed
just like Bobinot. Was it last week the
cyclone had well-nigh ruined him ? The
cyclone seemed a huge joke, now. It was
he, then, who, an hour ago was kissing little
Calixta s ear and whispering nonsense into
it. Calixta was like a myth, now. The
one, only, great reality in the world was
Clarisse standing before him, telling him
that she loved him.
In the distance they heard the rapid dis
charge of pistol-shots ; but it did not dis
turb them. They knew it was only the
negro musicians who had gone into the yard
to fire their pistols into the air, as the cus
tom is, and to announce " le bed estfini"
LA BELLE ZORAIDE.
THE summer night was hot and still ; not
a ripple of air swept over the marais. Yon
der, across Bayou St. John, lights twinkled
here and there in the darkness, and in the
dark sky above a few stars were blinking.
A lugger that had come out of the lake was
moving with slow, lazy motion down the
bayou. A man in the boat was singing a
The notes of the song came faintly to the
ears of old Manna Loulou, herself as black
as the night, who had gone out upon the
gallery to open the shutters wide.
Something in the refrain reminded the
woman of an old, half -forgotten Creole ro
mance, and she began to sing it low to her
self while she threw the shutters open :
" Lisett to kit<$ la plaine,
Mo perdi bonhair a mou ;
Zi^s a mou<5 sembl^ fontaine,
Ddpi mo pa mir<5 tou."
And then this old song, a lover s lament
LA BELLE ZORAIDE, 281
for the loss of his mistress, floating into
her memory, brought with it the story she
would tell to Madame, who lay in her sump
tuous mahogany bed, waiting to be fanned
and put to sleep to the sound of one of
Manna Loulou s stories. The old negress
had already bathed her mistress s pretty
white feet and kissed them lovingly, one, then
the other. She had brushed her mistress s
beautiful hair, that was as soft and shining
as satin, and was the color of Madame s
wedding-ring. Now, when she reentered the
room, she moved softly toward the bed, and
seating herself there began gently to fan
Manna Loulou was not always ready with
her story, for Madame would hear none but
those which were true. But to-night the
story was all there in Manna Loulou s head
the story of la belle Zoraide and she
told it to her mistress in the soft Creole
patois, whose music and charm no English
words can convey.
" La belle Zoraide had eyes that were so
dusky, so beautiful, that any man who gazed
too long into their depths was sure to lose
his head, and even his heart sometimes.
Her soft, smooth skin was the color of cafe-
282 LA BELLE ZORAIDE.
au-lait. As for her elegant manners, her
svelte and graceful figure, they were the
envy of half the ladies who visited her mis
tress, Madame Delariviere.
u No wonder Zorai de was as charming
and as dainty as the finest lady of la rue
Royale : from a toddling thing she had been
brought up at her mistress s side ; her fingers
had never done rougher work than sewing
a fine muslin seam ; and she even had her
own little black servant to wait upon her.
Madame, who was her godmother as well as
her mistress, woidd often say to her :
" Remember, Zorai de, when you are ready
to marry, it must be in a way to do honor to
your bringing up. It will be at the Cathe
dral. Your wedding gown, your corbeille,
all will be of the best ; I shall see to that
myself. You know, M sieur Ambroise is
ready whenever you say the word ; and his
master is willing to do as much for him as
I shall do for you. It is a union that will
please me in every way.
M sieur Ambroise was then the bod}^ ser
vant of IJoctor Langle. La belle Zorai de
detested the little mulatto, with his shining
whiskers like a white man s, and his small
eyes, that were cruel and false as a snake s.
LA BELLE Z OR A IDE. 283
She would cast down her own mischievous
eyes, and say :
" 4 Ah, nenaine, I am so happy, so con
tented here at your side just as I am. I
don t want to marry now ; next year, per
haps, or the next. And Madame would
smile indulgently and remind Zorai de that
a woman s charms are not everlasting.
" But the truth of the matter was, Zorai de
had seen le beau Mezor dance the Bamboula
in Congo Square. That was a sight to hold
one rooted to the ground. Mezor was as
straight as a cypress-tree and as proud look
ing as a king. His body, bare to the waist,
was like a column of ebony and it glistened
"Poor Zoraide s heart grew sick in her
bosom with love for le beau Mezor from the
moment she saw the fierce gleam of his eye,
lighted by the inspiring strains of the Bam
boula, and beheld the stately movements of
his splendid body swaying and quivering
through the figures of the dance.
" But when she knew him later, and he
came near her to speak with her, all the
fierceness was gone out of his eyes, and she
saw only kindness in them and heard only
gentleness in his voice ; for love had taken
284 LA BELLE ZORAIDE.
possession of him also, and Zorai de was
more distracted than ever. When Mezor
was not dancing Bamboula in Congo Square,
he was hoeing sugar-cane, barefooted and
half naked, in his master s field outside of
the city. Doctor Langle was his master as
well as M sieur Ambroise s.
" One day, when Zorai de kneeled before
her mistress, drawing on Madame s silken
stockings, that were of the finest, she said :
" Nenaine, you have spoken to me often
of marrying. Now, at last, I have chosen a
husband, but it is not M sieur Ambroise ; it
is le beau Mezor that I want and no other.
And Zorai de hid her face in her hands when
she had said that, for she guessed, rightly
enough, that her mistress would be very
angry. And, indeed, Madame Delariviere
was at first speechless with rage. When
she finally spoke it was only to gasp out,
" That negro ! that negro ! Bon Dieu
Seigneur, but this is too much !
" Am I white, nenaine ? pleaded Zorai de.
" You white ! Malheureuse ! You de
serve to have the lash laid upon you like
any other slave ; you have proven yourself
no better than the worst.
LA BELLE ZORAIDE. 285
" I am not white, persisted Zorai de,
respectfully and gently. c Doctor Langle
gives me his slave to marry, but he would
not give me his son. Then, since I am
not white, let me have from out of my own
race the one whom my heart has chosen.
"However, you may well believe that
Madame would not hear to that. Zorai de
was forbidden to speak to Mezor, and Mezor
was cautioned against seeing Zorai de again.
But you know how the negroes are, Ma zelle
Titite," added Manna Loulou, smiling a
little sadly. " There is no mistress, no mas
ter, no king nor priest who can hinder them
from loving when they will. And these two
found ways and means.
" When months had passed by, Zorai de,
who had grown unlike herself, sober and
preoccupied, said again to her mistress :
" Nenaine, you would not let me have
Mezor for my husband; but I have dis
obeyed you, I have sinned. Kill me if you
wish, nenaine : forgive me if you will ; but
when I heard le beau Mezor say to me,
" Zorai de, mo 1 aime toi," I could have died,
but I could not have helped loving him.
" This time Madame Delariviere was
so actually pained, so wounded at hearing
286 LA BELLE ZORAIDE.
Zoraide s confession, that there was no place
left in her heart for anger. She could utter
only confused reproaches. But she was a
woman of action rather than of words, and
she acted promptly. Her first step was to
induce Doctor Langle to sell Mezor. Doctor
Langle, who was a widower, had long wanted
to marry Madame Delarivire, and he would
willingly have walked on all fours at noon
through the Place d Armes if she wanted
him to. Naturally he lost no time in dis
posing of le beau Mezor, who was sold away
into Georgia, or the Carolinas, or one of
those distant countries far away, where he
would no longer hear his Creole tongue
spoken, nor dance Calinda, nor hold la belle
Zoraide in his arms.
" The poor thing was heartbroken when
Mezor was sent away from her, but she took
comfort and hope in the thought of her
baby that she would soon be able to clasp to
" La belle Zoraide s sorrows had now be
gun in earnest. Not only sorrows but suf
ferings, and with the anguish of maternity
came the shadow of death. But there is 110
agony that a mother will not forget when
she holds her first-born to her heart, and
LA BELLE Z OR AIDE. 287
presses her lips upon the baby flesh that is
her own, yet far more precious than her own.
" So, instinctively, when Zoraide came
out of the awful shadow she gazed question-
ingly about her and felt with her trembling
hands upon either side of her. Ou li, mo
piti a moin ? where is my little one ? she
asked imploringly. Madame who was there
and the nurse who was there both told her
in turn, To piti a toi, li mouri ( Your
little one is dead ), which was a wicked false
hood that must have caused the angels in
heaven to weep. For the baby was living
and well and strong. It had at once been
removed from its mother s side, to be sent
away to Madame s plantation, far up the
coast. Zoraide could only moan in reply,
Li mouri, li mouri, and she turned her
face to the wall.
" Madame had hoped, in thus depriving
Zoraide of her child, to have her young
waiting-maid again at her side free, happy,
and beautiful as of old. But there was a
more powerful will than Madame s at work
the will of the good God, who had al
ready designed that Zoraide should grieve
with a sorrow that was never more to be
lifted in this world. La belle Zoraide was
288 LA BELLE ZORAIDE.
no more. In her stead was a sad-eyed wo
man who mourned night and day for her
baby. 4 Li mouri, li mouri, she would sigh
over and over again to those about her, and
to herself when others grew weary of her
" Yet, in spite of all, M sieur Ambroise
was still in the notion to marry her. A sad
wife or a merry one was all the same to him
so long as that wife was Zoraide. And she
seemed to consent, or rather submit, to the
approaching marriage as though nothing
mattered any longer in this world.
" One day, a black servant entered a little
noisily the room in which Zoraide sat sewing.
With a look of strange and vacuous happi
ness upon her face, Zoraide arose hastily.
4 Hush, hush, she whispered, lifting a warn
ing finger, my little one is asleep ; you
must not awaken her.
" Upon the bed was a senseless bundle of
rags shaped like an infant in swaddling
clothes. Over this dummy the woman had
drawn the mosquito bar, and she was sitting
contentedly beside it. In short, from that
day Zoraide was demented. Night nor day
did she lose sight of the doll that lay in her
bed or in her arms.
LA BELLE ZORAIDE. 289
" And now was Madame stung with sor
row and remorse at seeing this terrible
affliction that had befallen her dear Zorai de.
Consulting with Doctor Langle, they de
cided to bring back to the mother the real
baby of flesh and blood that was now tod
dling about, and kicking its heels in the
dust yonder upon the plantation.
"It was Madame herself who led the
pretty, tiny little " griffe " girl to her mother.
Zorai de was sitting upon a stone bench in
the courtyard, listening to the soft splash
ing of the fountain, and watching the fitful
shadows of the palm leaves upon the broad,
" Here, said Madame, approaching,
here, my poor dear Zorai de, is your own
little child. Keep her ; she is yours. No
one will ever take her from you again.
" Zorai de looked with sullen suspicion
upon her mistress and the child before her.
Reaching out a hand she thrust the little
one mistrustfully away from her. With the
other hand she clasped the rag bundle
fiercely to her breast ; for she suspected a
plot to deprive her of it.
" Nor could she ever be induced to let her
own child approach her; and finally the
290 LA BELLE ZORAIDE.
little one was sent back to the plantation,
where she was never to know the love of
mother or father.
"And now this is the end of Zoraide s
story. She was never known again as la
belle Zorai de, but ever after as Zoraide la
folle, whom no one ever wanted to marry
not even M sieur Ambroise. She lived to
be an old woman, whom some people pitied
and others laughed at always clasping her
bundle of rags her piti.
" Are you asleep, Ma zelle Titite ? "
" No, I am not asleep ; I was thinking.
Ah, the poor little one, Man Loulou, the
poor little one ! better had she died ! "
But this is the way Madame Delisle and
Manna Loulou really talked to each
" Vou pre droumi, Ma zelle Titite ? "
" Non, pa pre droumi ; mo yapre zongier.
Ah, la pauv piti, Man Loulou. La pauv
piti ! Mieux li mouri ! "
A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TECHE.
IT was no wonder Mr. Sublet, who was
staying at the Hallet plantation, wanted to
make a picture of Evariste. The ^Cadian
was rather a picturesque subject in his way,
and a tempting one to an artist looking for
bits of " local color " along the Teche.
Mr. Sublet had seen the man on the back
gallery just as he came out of the swamp,
trying to sell a wild turkey to the house
keeper. He spoke to him at once, and in
the course of conversation engaged him to
return to the house the following morning
and have his picture drawn. He handed
Evariste a couple of silver dollars to show
that his intentions were fair, and that he ex
pected the Cadian to keep faith with him.
" He tell me he want put my picture in
one fine J/a^ zine, " said Evariste to his
daughter, Martinette, when the two were
talking the matter over in the afternoon.
" Wat fo you reckon he want do dat ? "
They sat within the low, homely cabin of
292 A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TECHE.
two rooms, that was not quite so comforta
ble as Mr. Hallet s negro quarters.
Martinette pursed her red lips that had
little sensitive curves to them, and her black
eyes took on a reflective expression.
" Mebbe he yeard bout that big fish w at
you ketch las winta in Carancro lake. You
know it was all wrote about in the Suga
Bowl. " Her father set aside the sugges
tion with a deprecatory wave of the hand.
" Well, anyway, you got to fix yo se f
up," declared Martinette, dismissing further
speculation ; " put on yo otha pantloon an
yo good coat ; an you betta ax Mr. Leonce
to cut yo hair, an yo w sker a li le bit."
" It s w at I say," chimed in Evariste.
"I tell dat gent man I m goin make my-
se f fine. He say , No, no, like he ent
please . He want me like I come out de
swamp. So much betta if my pant loon
an* coat is tore, he- say, an color like de
mud." They could not understand these
eccentric wishes on the part of the strange
gentleman, and made no effort to do so.
An hour later Martinette, who was quite
puffed up over the affair, trotted across to
Aunt Dicey s cabin to communicate the
news to her. The negress was ironing ; her
A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TECHE. 293
irons stood in a long row before the fire of
logs that burned on the hearth. Martinette
seated herself in the chimney corner and
held her feet up to the blaze ; it was damp
and a little chilly out of doors. The girl s
shoes were considerably worn and her gar
ments were a little too thin and scant for the
winter season. Her father had given her the
two dollars he had received from the artist,
and Martinette was on her way to the store
to invest them as judiciously as she knew
"You know, Aunt Dicey," she began a
little complacently after listening awhile to
Aunt Dicey s unqualified abuse of her own
son, Wilkins, who was dining-room boy at
Mr. Hallet s, " you know that stranger
gentleman up to Mr. Hallet s ? he want to
make my popa s picture ; an he say he
goin put it in one fine Magazine yonda."
Aunt Dicey spat upon her iron to test its
heat. Then she began to snicker. She kept
on laughing inwardly, making her whole fat
body shake, and saying nothing.
"Wat youlanghin bout, Aunt Dice?"
inquired Martinette mistrustfully.
" I is n laughin , chile ! "
"Yas, you laughin ."
294 A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TtiCHE.
" Oh, don t pay no tention to me. I jis
studyin how simple you an yo pa is. You
is bof de simplest somebody I eva come
" You got to say plumb out w at you mean,
Aunt Dice," insisted the girl doggedly, sus
picious and alert now.
" Well, dat w y I say you is simple," pro
claimed the woman, slamming down her iron
on an inverted, battered pie pan, " jis like
you says, dey gwine put yo pa s picture
yonda in de picture paper. An you know
w at readin dey gwine sot down on neaf dat
picture?" Martinette was intensely atten
tive. " Dey gwine sot down on neaf : Dis
heah is one dem low-down Cajuns o Bayeh
Teche ! "
The blood flowed from Martinette s face,
leaving it deathly pale ; in another instant
it came beating back in a quick flood, and
her eyes smarted with pain as if the tears
that filled them had been fiery hot.
" I knows dem kine o folks," continued
Aunt Dicey, resuming her interrupted iron
ing. " Dat stranger he got a li le boy w at
ain t none too big to spank. Dat li le imp
he come a hoppin in heah yistiddy wid a
kine o box on neaf his arm. He say 4 Good
A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TECHE. 295
mo nin , madam. Will you be so kine an
stan jis like you is dah at yo i onin , an lef
me take yo picture ? I lowed I gwine
make a picture outen him wid dis heah flat-
i on, ef he don cl ar hisse f quick. An
he say he baig my pardon fo his intrude-
ment. All dat kine o talk to a ole nigga
oman ! Dat plainly sho he don know his
" Wat you want im to say, Aunt Dice ? "
asked Martinette, with an effort to conceal
" I wants im to come in heah an say :
Howdy, Aunt Dicey ! will you be so kine
and go put on yo noo calker dress an yo
bonnit w at you w ars to meetin , an stan
side f om dat i onin -boa d w ilse I gwine
take yo photygraph. Dat de way fo a boy
to talk w at had good raisin ."
Martinette had arisen, and began to take
slow leave of the woman. She turned at the
cabin door to observe tentatively : " I reckon
it s Wilkins tells you how the folks they
talk, yonda up to Mr. Hallet s."
She did not go to the store as she had in
tended, but walked with a dragging step
back to her home. The silver dollars clicked
in her pocket as she walked. She felt like
296 A GENTLEMAN OF BA.YOU TECHE.
flinging them across the field ; they seemed
to her somehow the price of shame.
The sun had sunk, and twilight was set
tling like a silver beam upon the bayou and
enveloping the fields in a gray mist. Eva-
riste, slim and slouchy, was waiting for his
daughter in the cabin door. He had lighted
a fire of sticks and branches, and placed the
kettle before it to boil. He met the girl
with his slow, serious, questioning eyes, as-,
tonished to see her empty-handed.
"How come you didn" bring nuttin f om
de sto , Martinette ? "
She entered and flung her gingham sun-
bonnet upon a chair. "No, I didn go
yon da ; " and with sudden exasperation :
" You got to go take back that money ; you
mus n git no picture took."
"But, Martinette," her father mildly in
terposed, " I promise im ; an he s goin
give me some mo money w en he finish."
"If he give you a ba el o money, you
mus n git no picture took. You know w at
he want to put un neath that picture, fo
ev body to read?" She could not tell him
the whole hideous truth as she had heard it
distorted from Aunt Dicey s lips ; she would
not hurt him that much. " He s goin to
A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TEC HE. 297
write : This is one Cajun o the Bayou
Teche. Evariste winced.
" How you know ? " he asked.
" I yeard so. I know it s true."
The water in the kettle was boiling. He
went and poured a small quantity upon the
coffee which he had set there to drip. Then
he said to her : " I reckon you jus as well
go care dat two dolla back, tomo mo nin ;
.me, I ll go yonda ketch a mess o fish in
Mr. Hallet and a few masculine com
panions were assembled at a rather late
breakfast the following morning. The din
ing-room was a big, bare one, enlivened by
a cheerful fire of logs that blazed in the wide
chimney on massive andirons. There were
guns, fishing tackle, and other implements of
sport lying about. A couple of fine dogs
strayed unceremoniously in and out behind
Wilkins, the negro boy who waited upon the
table. The chair beside Mr. Sublet, usu
ally occupied by his little son, was vacant,
as the child had gone for an early morning
outing and had not yet returned.
When breakfast was about half over,
Mr. Hallet noticed Martinette standing out-
298 A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TECHE.
side upon the gallery. The dining-room
door had stood open more than half the
" Is n t that Martinette out there, Wil-
kins ? " inquired the jovial-faced young
" Dat s who, suh," returned Wilkins.
"She ben standin dah sence mos sun-up;
look like she studyin to take root to de
" What in the name of goodness does she
want ? Ask her what she wants. Tell her
to come in to the fire."
Martinette walked into the room with
much hesitancy. Her small, brown face
could hardly be seen in the depths of the
gingham sun-bonnet. Her blue cottonade
skirt scarcely reached the thin ankles that
it should have covered.
"Bonjou ," she murmured, with a little
comprehensive nod that took in the entire
company. Her eyes searched the table for
the "stranger gentleman," and she knew
him at once, because his hair was parted in
the middle and he wore a pointed beard.
She went and laid the two silver dollars be
side his plate and motioned to retire without
a word of explanation.
A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TEC HE. 299
"Hold on, Martinette ! " called out the
planter, "what s all this pantomime busi
ness ? Speak out, little one."
" My popa don t want any picture took,"
she offered, a little timorously. On her way
to the door she had looked back to say this.
In that fleeting glance she detected a smile
of intelligence pass from one to the other
of the group. She turned quickly, facing
them all, and spoke out, excitement making
her voice bold and shrill : " My popa ent
one low-down Cajun. He ent goin to
stan to have that kine o writin put down
un neath his picture ! "
She almost ran from the room, half
blinded by the emotion that had helped her
to make so daring a speech.
Descending the gallery steps she ran full
against her father who was ascending, bear
ing in his arms the little boy, Archie Sublet.
The child was most grotesquely attired in
garments far too large for his diminutive
person the rough jeans clothing of some
negro boy. Evariste himself had evidently
been taking a bath without the preliminary
ceremony of removing his clothes, that were
now half dried upon his person by the wind
300 A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TECHE.
" Yere you li le boy," he announced,
stumbling into the room. " You ought not
lef dat li le chile go by hisse f comme $a in
de pirogue." Mr. Sublet darted from his
chair; the others following suit almost as
hastily. In an instant, quivering with ap
prehension, he had his little son in his arms.
The child was quite unharmed, only some
what pale and nervous, as the consequence
of a recent very serious ducking.
Evariste related in his uncertain, broken
English how he had been fishing for an
hour or more in Carancro lake, when he no
ticed the boy paddling over the deep, black
water in a shell-like pirogue. Nearing a
clump of cypress-trees that rose from the
lake, the pirogue became entangled in the
heavy moss that hung from the tree limbs
and trailed upon the water. The next thing
he knew, the boat had overturned, he heard
the child scream, and saw him disappear
beneath the still, black surface of the lake.
" Wen I done swim to de sho wid im,"
continued Evariste, " I hurry yonda to Jake
Baptiste s cabin, an we rub im an warm
im up, an dress im up dry like you see.
He all right now, M sieur ; but you mus n
lef im go no mo by hisse f in one pirogue."
A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TECHE. 301
Martinette had followed into the room be
hind her father. She was feeling and tap
ping his wet garments solicitously, and beg
ging him in French to come home. Mr.
Hallet at once ordered hot coffee and a
warm breakfast for the two ; and they sat
down at the corner of the table, making no
manner of objection in their perfect simpli
city. It was with visible reluctance and
ill-disguised contempt that Wilkins served
When Mr. Sublet had arranged his son
comfortably, with tender care, upon the sofa,
and had satisfied himself that the child was
quite uninjured, he attempted to find words
with which to thank Evariste for this service
which no treasure of words or gold could
pay for. These warm and heartfelt expres
sions seemed to Evariste to exaggerate the
importance of his action, and they intim
idated him. He attempted shyly to hide his
face as well as he could in the depths of his
bowl of coffee.
" You will let me make your picture now,
I hope, Evariste," begged Mr. Sublet, laying
his hand upon the Cadian s shoulder. " I
want to place it among things I hold most
dear, and shall call it A hero of Bayou
302 A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TECHE.
Teche. : This assurance seemed to distress
" No, no," lie protested, " it s nuttin hero
to take a li le boy out de water. I jus as
easy do dat like I stoop down an pick up a
li le chile w at fall down in de road. I ent
goin to low dat, me. I don t git no picture
took, va ! "
Mr. Hallet, who now discerned his friend s
eagerness in the matter, came to his aid.
" I tell you, Evariste, let Mr. Sublet draw
your picture, and you yourself may call it
whatever you want. I m sure he 11 let
" Most willingly," agreed the artist.
Evariste glanced up at him with shy and
child-like pleasure. " It s a bargain ? " he
" A bargain," affirmed Mr. Sublet.
" Popa," whispered Martinette, " you betta
come home an put on yo otha pant loon
an yo good coat."
" And now, what shall we call the much
talked-of picture?" cheerily inquired the
planter, standing with his back to the blaze.
Evariste in a business-like manner began
carefully to trace on the tablecloth imag
inary characters with an imaginary pen ; he
A GENTLEMAN OF BAYOU TECHE. 303
could not have written the real characters
with a real pen he did not know how.
"You will put on neat de picture," he
said, deliberately, " Dis is one picture of
Mista Evariste Anatole Bonamour, a gent -
man of de Bayou Teche.
A LADY OF BAYOU ST. JOHN.
THE days and the nights were very lonely
for Madame Delisle. Gustave, her husband,
was away yonder in Virginia somewhere,
with Beauregard, and she was here in the
old house on Bayou St. John, alone with her
Madame was very beautiful. So beauti
ful, that she found much diversion in sitting
for hours before the mirror, contemplating
her own loveliness ; admiring the brilliancy
of her golden hair, the sweet languor of her
blue eyes, the graceful contours of her fig
ure, and the peach-like bloom of her flesh.
She was very young. So young that she
romped with the dogs, teased the parrot, and
could not fall asleep at night unless old
black Manna-Loulou sat beside her bed and
told her stories.
In short, she was a child, not able to real
ize the significance of the tragedy whose un
folding kept the civilized world in suspense.
It was only the immediate effect of the awful
A LADY OF BAYOU ST. JOHN. 305
drama that moved her : the gloom that,
spreading on all sides, penetrated her own
existence and deprived it of joyousness.
Sepincourt found her looking very lonely
and disconsolate one day when he stopped
to talk with her. She was pale, and her blue
eyes were dim with unwept tears. He was
a Frenchman who lived near by. He
shrugged his shoulders over this strife be
tween brothers, this quarrel which was none
of his ; and he resented it chiefly upon the
ground that it made life uncomfortable ; yet
he was young enough to have had quicker
and hotter blood in his veins.
When he left Madame Delisle that day,
her eyes were no longer dim, and a some
thing of the dreariness that weighted her
had been lifted away. That mysterious, that
treacherous bond called sympathy, had re
vealed them to each other.
He came to her very often that summer,
clad always in cool, white duck, with a flower
in his buttonhole. His pleasant brown eyes
sought hers with warm, friendly glances that
comforted her as a caress might comfort a
disconsolate child. She took to watching
for his slim figure, a little bent, walking laz
ily up the avenue between the double line of
306 A LADY OF BAYOU ST. JOHN.
They would sit sometimes during whole
afternoons in the vine-sheltered corner of
the gallery, sipping the black coffee that
Manna-Loulou brought to them at intervals ;
and talking, talking incessantly during the
first days when they were unconsciously un
folding themselves to each other. Then a
time came it came very quickly when
they seemed to have nothing more to say to
He brought her news of the war; and
they talked about it listlessly, between long
intervals of silence, of which neither took
account. An occasional letter came by round
about ways from Gustave guarded arid
saddening in its tone. They would read it
and sigh over it together.
Once they stood before his portrait that
hung in the drawing-room and that looked
out at them with kind, indulgent eyes. Ma
dame wiped the picture with her gossamer
handkerchief and impulsively pressed a ten
der kiss upon the painted canvas. For
months past the living image of her husband
had been receding further and further into
a mist which she could penetrate with no
faculty or power that she possessed.
One day at sunset, when she and Sepin-
A LADY OF BAYOU ST. JOHN. 307
court stood silently side by side, looking
across the marais, aflame with the western
light, he said to her: "M amie, let us go
away from this country that is so triste. Let
us go to Paris, you and me."
She thought that he was jesting, and she
laughed nervously. "Yes, Paris would
surely be gayer than Bayou St. John," she
answered. But he was not jesting. She saw
it at once in the glance that penetrated her
own ; in the quiver of his sensitive lip and
the quick beating of a swollen vein in his
"Paris, or anywhere with you ah,
bon Dieu ! " he whispered, seizing her hands.
But she withdrew from him, frightened, and
hurried away into the house, leaving him
That night, for the first time, Madame
did not want to hear Manna-Loulou s stories,
and she blew out the wax candle that till
now had burned nightly, in her sleeping-
room, under its tall, crystal globe. She had
suddenly become a woman capable of love
or sacrifice. She would not hear Manna-
Loulou s stories. She wanted to be alone,
to tremble and to weep.
In the morning her eyes were dry, but she
308 A LADY OF BAYOU ST. JOHN.
would not see Sepincourt when he came.
Then he wrote her a letter.
" I have offended you and I would rather
die ! " it ran. " Do not banish me from
your presence that is life to me. Let me lie
at your feet, if only for a moment, in which
to hear you say that you forgive me."
Men have written just such letters before,
but Madame did not know it. To her it was
a voice from the unknown, like music, awak
ing in her a delicious tumult that seized and
held possession of her whole being.
When they met, he had but to look into
her face to know that he need not lie at her
feet craving forgiveness. She was waiting
for him beneath the spreading branches of a
live-oak that guarded the gate of her home
like a sentinel.
For a brief moment he held her hands,
which trembled. Then he folded her in
his arms and kissed her many times. "You
will go with me, iriamie ? I love you oh,
I love you ! Will you not go with me,
m amie f "
" Anywhere, anywhere," she told him in
a fainting voice that he could scarcely hear.
But she did not go with him. Chance
willed it otherwise. That night a courier
A LADY OF BAYOU ST. JOHN. 309
brought her a message from Beauregard,
telling her that Gustave, her husband, was
When the new year was still young, Sepin-
court decided that, all things considered, he
might, without any appearance of indecent
haste, speak again of his love to Madame
Delisle. That love was quite as acute as
ever ; perhaps a little sharper, from the long
period of silence and waiting to which he
had subjected it. He found her, as he had
expected, clad in deepest mourning. She
greeted him precisely as she had welcomed
the cure, when the kind old priest had
brought to her the consolations of religion
clasping his two hands warmly, and call
ing him "cAer ami." Her whole attitude
and bearing brought to Sepincourt the poig
nant, the bewildering conviction that he held
no place in her thoughts.
They sat in the drawing-room before the
portrait of Gustave, which was draped with
his scarf. Above the picture hung his
sword, and beneath it was an embankment
of flowers. Sepincourt felt an almost irre
sistible impulse to bend his knee before this
altar, upon which he saw foreshadowed the
immolation of his hopes.
310 A LADY OF BAYOU ST. JOHN.
There was a soft air blowing gently over
the marais. It came to them through the
open window, laden with a hundred subtle
sounds and scents of the springtime. It
seemed to remind Madame of something
far, far away, for she gazed dreamily out
into the blue firmament. It fretted Sepin-
court with impulses to speech and action
which he found it impossible to control.
" You must know what has brought me,"
he began impulsively, drawing his chair
nearer to hers. "Through all these months
I have never ceased to love you and to long
for you. Night and day the sound of your
dear voice has been with me ; your eyes "
She held out her hand deprecatingly. He
took it and held it. She let it lie unrespon
sive in his.
" You cannot have forgotten that you
loved me not long ago," he went on eagerly,
"that you were ready to follow me any
where, anywhere ; do you remember ? I
have come now to ask you to fulfill that
promise ; to ask you to be my wife, my com
panion, the dear treasure of my life."
She heard his warm and pleading tones
as though listening to a strange language,
A LADY OF BAYOU ST. JOHti. 311
She withdrew her hand from his, and
leaned her brow thoughtfully upon it.
" Can you not feel can you not under
stand, mon ami" she said calmly, " that
now such a thing such a thought, is im
possible to me ? "
" Impossible ? "
" Yes, impossible. Can you not see that
now my heart, my soul, my thought my
very life, must belong to another ? It could
not be different."
" Would you have me believe that you
can wed your young existence to the dead ? "
he exclaimed with something like horror.
Her glance was sunk deep in the embank
ment of flowers before her.
"My husband has never been so living
to me as he is now," she replied with a
faint smile of commiseration for Sepin-
court s fatuity. " Every object that sur
rounds me speaks to me of him. I look
yonder across the marais, and I see him
coming toward me, tired and toil-stained
from the hunt. I see him again sitting in
this chair or in that one. I hear his familiar
voice, his footsteps upon the galleries. "We
walk once more together beneath the mag
nolias ; and at night in dreams I feel that
312 A LADY OF BAYOU ST. JOHN.
he is there, there, near me. How could it
be different ! Ah ! I have memories, mem
ories to crowd and fill my life, if I live a
hundred years ! "
Sepincourt was wondering why she did
not take the sword down from her altar and
thrust it through his body here and there.
The effect would have been infinitely more
agreeable than her words, penetrating his
soul like fire. He arose confused, enraged
" Then, Madame," he stammered, " there
is nothing left for me but to take my leave.
I bid you adieu."
" Do not be offended, mon ami" she said
kindly, holding out her hand. " You are
going to Paris, I suppose ? "
" What does it matter," he exclaimed
desperately, " where I go ? "
" Oh, I only wanted to wish you bon voy
age" she assured him amiably.
Many days after that Sepincourt spent in
the fruitless mental effort of trying to com
prehend that psychological enigma, a wo
man s heart.
Madame still lives on Bayou St. John.
She is rather an old lady now, a very pretty
old lady, against whose long years of widow-
A LADY OF BAYOU ST. JOHN. 313
hood there has never been a breath of re
proach. The memory of Gustave still fills
and satisfies her days. She has never failed,
once a year, to have a solemn high mass
said for the repose of his soul.
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